The Differences Between Remote Work & Telework
In the world of work, many people will use the terms “remote work” and “telework” interchangeably. But in practice, the two types of work have some subtle yet significant differences.
The digital era has ushered in a completely new era of work. As a result of the pandemic, companies have increasingly been giving their workforce flexible working options like remote work and teleworking.
However, managing these two types of workers can be challenging for managers and C-suites. Nevertheless, as the world of work continues to change, learning how to manage and balance different types of work is essential for the future leader.
The world of work is shifting toward a more flexible future, and that includes the way and location where employees perform their work. One survey found that for 59% of respondents, “flexibility” is more important to them than salary or other benefits provided by a company.
Being in the office full-time is no longer essential for producing good work. With the rising popularity of both remote work and telework, you must understand both work styles so you can better assist your employees and build stronger teams.
What Is the Difference Between Remote Work and Telework?
There are some key differences between remote work and telework, despite the fact that many managers and employees use these terms interchangeably.
Remote work allows employees to work from any location in the world, as long as they have a computer and an internet connection. The pandemic accelerated remote working trends, and many companies found themselves adopting new hybrid working models over the past two years.
In 2021, one survey found that 70% of companies said they were planning to adopt the hybrid model.
With remote work, most employees do not live near their primary hub office. Instead, they work from home — or another communal location, like a shared office spot — and work closely with their teams online. Remote workers will rarely, if ever, meet their teams in real life.
Unlike traditional office workers, who may adhere to a 9-to-5 schedule, remote workers often have greater flexibility with logging into the computer to complete their work. Remote workers often work non-standard hours or break up their days to accommodate their lifestyles.
Remote work lets employees and management build a flexible workplace that serves their lifestyles. Employees can fit their schedules around other commitments like family responsibilities, caregiving, and studying.
Telework is a little different from remote work. Teleworking also lets employees manage their duties and responsibilities from an offsite location — like their home or a coworking space, cafe, office, or even a bookstore — but they do occasionally have to visit the office in person.
How often depends on the role and the organization. Teleworking employees also tend to live geographically closer to their primary office than remote working employees.
Pros and Cons: Remote Work vs. Telework
There are several distinct differences between remote work and telework, though they may seem minor to many managers. The pros and cons of remote work and telework will depend on your management style, the geographic location of your employees, the lifestyle of both you and your employees, and the type of work being performed.
For example, managers and employees alike might prefer remote work because it gives them greater flexibility to spend time with their children or help out around the house during their lunch break.
In contrast, others might prefer telework because it gives their workers the option to come into the office from time to time and feel connected to their team, while still providing a more robust work-life balance.
How to Better Integrate Remote and Teleworking Teams
One of the many challenges you will face leading remote or teleworking teams is maintaining a strong company and team culture when everyone is spread out. This is especially true if it’s a remote team and workers are living in different time zones and regions of the world, all with varying working schedules.
Even with teleworking teams where everyone lives in the same city, it can be difficult to gather everyone in the office all at once, and encouraging team bonding and sustaining unity can be a challenge.
Before you plan out any strategies to integrate your team, consider asking for feedback and getting to know your team better. Ask questions like these:
- What time of day does everyone work?
- Are people happy with the level of communication in place right now?
- What might help them get to know their team members better?
Organizing team bonding events can be an important step in ensuring everyone knows each other. Setting aside this designated time should be the first step in integrating your teams.
Consider setting up virtual (or in-person) team trivia or a virtual coffee hour or happy hour to allow your team to talk freely about anything other than work. It doesn’t have to be very long — even 20 minutes makes a big difference. You might be surprised with the common ground they share.
Once everyone knows each other better, you may find the team will naturally integrate better and work together more smoothly.
How to Better Manage Remote and Teleworking Teams
Trust and responsibility are the foundation for both remote work employees and teleworking employees. Because these workers spend most of their time outside the office, some managers believe they must not be working. It’s a common concern among supervisors: if I cannot see my team, they must not be working.
The opposite is true, studies have found. According to one Australian survey, workers put in an average of 6.1 hours of overtime each week while working remotely. In fact, workers tend to struggle to disconnect from their work, especially if they work remotely or telecommute.
How can you ensure your remote or teleworking team is on track? Consider implementing various strategies, including:
- Set agreed-upon goals, which will help you determine standards for the quality of work, the quality of the tasks completed, and the ability to finish tasks in a timely manner.
- Schedule check-in calls daily or once a week. Setting aside time to catch-up with your employees, one-on-one, can ensure you are both on the same page.
- Qualify tasks and let workers know which projects are more important than others, so they can prioritize accordingly.
- Establish weekly team goals on top of individual goals to allow the team to work toward the company’s overarching goals.
- Track strong, achievable KPIs, like total monthly website views, engagement metrics, or percentage-of-sales goals.
While it can be tempting to implement monitoring software or other techniques, it’s important to avoid micromanaging your employees. Instead, trust them to complete their work in the time frame that’s been established.
The Future of the Remote Workforce
The world of work is undergoing a vast transformation. Changes brought about by the pandemic were already in progress, as technology has made it possible for many jobs to move entirely online. Growing numbers of employees are working remotely or telecommuting, some for the first time ever.
Whether your workers are working remotely or telecommuting, it’s important to understand the differences so you can adapt to either style and manage your team effectively.