What Is Telecommuting?

Definition & Examples of Telecommuting

Many working at computer and talking on phone
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Telecommuting is an employment arrangement in which the employee works outside of the employer's office. Often this means working from home or at a location close to home, such as a coffee shop, library, or co-working space. 

Learn more about telecommuting, how it works, and its pros and cons.

What Is Telecommuting?

When you telecommute, you work outside of an organization's brick-and-mortar location, and you usually use technology to help you do your job and connect with your employer or employees.

Many industries—including sales, publishing, customer service, and marketing—offer telecommuting jobs. Many office jobs and positions in technology (including computer and software programming) can also be done via telecommuting.

Some medical professionals, including health claims analysts and even some radiologists, have begun to work from home.

Alternate names: Teleworking, e-commuting, working remotely

Be aware of job scams when looking for a telecommuting position. Many scams promise applicants easy money from a work-from-home job, but they're really looking to take your money or your identity. Be sure to research a company before applying, and never pay money to a potential employer.

How Telecommuting Works

Rather than traveling to the office, the employee uses telecommunication to keep in touch with coworkers and employers. These can include telephone, online chat programs, video meeting platforms, and email.

For office workers, technology (such as Slack and Zoom) has made working from home easier. Access to WiFi can help make communications virtually seamless. 

The worker may occasionally enter the office to attend meetings in-person and touch base with the employer, however, with many options for distance conferencing, there's sometimes no need to visit the office.

Some employees telecommute full-time, while others may work remotely for part of the week and go into the office for the remainder of the week. 

Pros and Cons of Telecommuting

Pros
  • Flexibility

  • Saves money

  • Employee satisfaction

Cons
  • More possible distractions

  • Can be difficult to "unplug"

  • Loneliness

Pros Explained

Greater flexibility: Telecommuting gives workers greater freedom over their work hours and work location. It also gives the employee more flexibility to balance work and personal obligations, such as school pick-up or caring for an ill family member. Less travel time also usually means there's more time to attend to personal matters.

Saves money: Remote work can save both an employee and employer money. Companies can save money on everything related to running an office, and employees can save money on commuting. And if the employer pays for WiFi, phone service, or other utilities related to telecommuting, then the employee can save money on that, as well.

Employee satisfaction: Full-time remote workers say they're happy in their jobs 22% more than people who don't work remotely. For employers, this usually translates to higher retention rates.

About a quarter of remote workers earn more than $100,000 per year, but only 8% of on-site workers earn more than $100,000 per year.

Cons Explained

More possible distractions: People working from home may become easily distracted by things like children, pets, other people, or roommates. Working out of a coffee shop or a similar location can be distracting, as well.

Can be difficult to "unplug": Those working from home may see the lines between work time and personal time blur, making it more difficult to stop working at the end of the day. They also run the risk of working during off-hours.

Loneliness: Some people may find working from home to be a bit isolating because they're not around coworkers. This is especially true for people who live alone.

To make it easier to work remotely, be sure to have a dedicated workspace if possible, prepare as if you're going to work (shower, eat breakfast, etc.), have a firm start and stop time, and maintain consistent communication with your manager or employees.

Key Takeaways

  • Telecommuting involves working outside of a brick-and-mortar office and using technology to do your job.
  • It's also known as teleworking, e-commuting, and working remotely.
  • Many types of employers allow telecommuting.
  • Some people telecommute full time, while others do only for a percentage of their work week.
  • There are a lot of benefits to telecommuting, such as greater flexibility, saving money, and increased happiness, but there can be downsides to it, as well.

Article Sources

  1. Owl Labs. "State of Remote Work 2019." Accessed June 27, 2020.