Remote Work Vs. Work From Home: An Unsolved Case

Taylor (and his colleagues) started work from home as soon as the pandemic hit. Like most of the workforce worldwide. Once he got used to it, he found that he really enjoyed this working model. He would hang out with his dog, do laundry on his break, or have lunch with his wife and kids—things he would never have dreamed of doing before.

Fast forward to a year later…

Taylor’s company announced that they would adopt one flexible working model, and everyone had to go to the office three days a week. Taylor hadn’t missed the hours he spent commuting at all. And he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of ​​coming back to the office, even if it was just for a few days.

So he began looking for a new job, one that would give him the flexibility he was looking for. As he browsed job portals, he was pleased to see many advertisements for remote positions. But on another look, he noticed that most of them still required employees to be located in a specific area. Despite being advertised as “remote control”.

So were they really remote or not?

And this is where many of us get confused: Is telecommuting the same as working from home? And what if you only work from home a few days a week?

The Unsolved Case of Telecommuting Vs.  work from home

Breaking down the case of telework vs. work from home

If you have identified situations similar to Taylor’s among your employees, you should definitely take a step back and assess whether your current business model is effective. Let’s look at the key differences between working remotely and working from home so you’re ready to choose the one that’s best for you and your teams.

Telecommuting (or working from anywhere)

Working remotely means employees are working outside of their company office at all times. This means creating their own working environment and arranging their workplace as they prefer. Basically, they can work anywhere.

They can be literally anywhere as long as they are online and doing their job.

There is also no need for completely synchronous tasks. Companies allow their employees to work asynchronously. This is especially handy for team members who happen to be on the road or in a different time zone. However, some tasks may require employees to be in sync, such as video conferencing, meetings, or parts of employee training. They must be planned in advance, but overall the daily tasks are organized by the employees themselves.

Flexibility gives employees control over their work schedule. But it requires a lot of skills like a self-starter attitude, hyper focus, proactive and regular communication and impeccable time management skills. However, you can motivate your external employees by offering them quality training about how to be more engaged and efficient in the external working environment.

Another challenge remote workers may face is finding a dedicated workspace. Since they don’t work from the same place at all times, they may not always have access to a quiet, well-lit room with a comfortable chair and a large desk equipped with all the necessary tools. Distractions may also be more frequent. And they will have to adapt quickly when that happens.

(Full disclosure: The writing of this piece was interrupted 5 times by my cats.)

Work from home

Now it is different to work from home. Even though the concept seems the same.

Let’s see what telecommuting versus working from home entails.

Your employees work remotely, but the biggest difference is that they can only work from home. This type of work model is not only applicable to completely remote workers. Sometimes employees prefer not to work in the office for a few days because they might have an important project and want to focus better.

In fact, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less per day being unproductive and are 47% more productive.

This model is especially useful if your company has offices and this is where most of your employees work, but you also want to hire people from different locations. The difference between telecommuting vs. work from home in this case is that you do not necessarily support the “work from anywhere” model or the asynchronous way of working. You simply want to accommodate people who can’t move or visit the offices regularly (eg new parents.) Or you want to cast a wider net and attract candidates from other places as well.

Working from home means solve tasks in the living room, the bedroom or even in the kitchen. However, if your employees work from home for an extended period of time, it may be more useful to create a dedicated workspace. And as with remote work, it is essential employees set clear boundaries between work and home life.

Overall, this type of work model is a slight change in their normal work pace and routine – something that many people appreciate and enjoy.

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Hybrid work

In addition to the distinction between telecommuting vs. work from home, there is another trend that has emerged recently. The hybrid work model combines the best of both worlds: work in the office and work from home.

What used to be an advantage in some companies has now become a common working style. For example, a company may have allowed employees to work from home 5 times a year when they choose. Or another company may have set a rule where all employees can work from home on Mondays if they want to.

Exactly this way of working has now become more formal. This is what we call the hybrid work model and comes with many variations.

There are more structured those where employers set a specific schedule when it comes to when employees can work from home. For example, they may need to be in the office on certain days each week. Or teams and departments work from home on rotation (eg sales and marketing teams work from home this week while developers work in the office). And there are more. flexible hybrid working models, where employees can freely choose when and whether they want to visit the office.

The level of flexibility depends on the nature of the job, what needs to be done and when. With higher flexibility, logistics can also be challenging. For example, you might want to move to a smaller space to cut costs if most of your employees usually work from home. But at the same time, you need to make sure they find a free workstation if they decide to visit the office.

Divided teams

Distributed teams consist of employees who work from different locations around the world. This is not a new working model. Indeed, it has been a common practice for some large companies even before the pandemic.

The truth is that many companies are recognizing the benefits of hiring employees who can work from anywhere due to the shift to remote work as a result of COVID-19. That’s when they started choosing hiring people who fit the needs of the job and not focus on their physical location.

The good thing is that employers can find the perfect fit for a job, even if the employee lives on another continent. However, the biggest disadvantage is that difference between time zones can cause problems with workflow and communication.

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Take a look at the big companies

“Work is not a place you go, work is something you do,” Spotify claims. They value the freedom of working where they want. As they claim, the most important thing to reach high levels of productivity and be efficient. So employees who want to join Spotify can decide to choose their location and the work model that suits them best.

Looks ideal, right? But what do the numbers say?

According to Fortune magazine, Spotify experienced a massive drop in revenue rates when implementing the work from any initiative. Only 6% of the company’s workforce decided to divorce according to the new policy. Attrition at the company was also 15% lower in the second quarter of 2022 compared to the same quarter in 2019.

As Business Insider says, after Airbnb announced that their employees could live and work anywhere forever, they saw their careers page more than 800,000 times. This indicates that the active workforce worldwide shows a preference for telecommuting over working from home.

To better demonstrate how the ability to work remotely has shaped the modern workplace, Apple noted that many employees were dissatisfied and ready to quit just weeks after announcing their return to the office. In fact, Apple Insider reports that an impressive 56% want to leave Apple because of its office demands. An employee said that clearly “60% of my team doesn’t even live near the office. They are not coming back,” and you can see why there was so much discontent.

Reddit was one of the first companies that chosen the hybrid working model to offer their workforce. In October 2020, they switched to a permanent hybrid model, where the employees have full flexibility to work anywhere, with options to work in the office.

However, it is important to note Remote work is not for everyone. There are still employees who do not prefer to work from home or remotely. They can better engage in a designated office space where they share ideas with their colleagues on a daily basis.

As the facts show, remote workers still face problems with this type of work. According to Statista, an impressive 25% claim it is difficult for them to unplug after a day at their remote work, 21% find it difficult to focus, while 24% experience feelings of loneliness.

Working remotely or working from home?

The choice is up to you between telecommuting vs working from home. Or you can choose one of the hybrid work models.

In any case, you don’t want to put your employees in the role of Taylor. Regardless of which working model you choose, you should always stay true to your promises both to your current and future employees. If your goal is to create a remote-first environment, for example, then you can’t expect your employees to work from a specific location or to be online all the time.

Before making big announcements, listen to what your employees need and prefer. With that in mind, put all options on the table, identify how you can better achieve your business goals and carefully decide which model suits you best.

There is no uniform working model. But there is one that fits your unique work culture.


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