Finding a Job

Q&A: What is Telecommuting?

February 14, 2020

Modern technology makes it possible to work from out of the office, a practice known as telecommuting. If you prefer or require a flexible work schedule, telecommuting jobs might be a good option for you. In this article, we will discuss more on what telecommuting is, its benefits and types of telecommuting jobs with examples.

What is telecommuting?

Telecommuting—also called teleworking—is when an individual performs their job from outside a company’s office with telecommunication options like phone, email and internet tools such as Slack or Skype. Though freelancing can be considered a form of telecommuting, it more often refers to when an individual performs their job from outside a company’s office.

Related: Work From Home Jobs That Pay Well

Types of Telecommuting

Many jobs can be done away from the office—most that simply require an online connection. These jobs fall into three main categories based off of where and how you complete your tasks:

  • Remote work: A remote worker performs their work from a location other than their employer’s physical office, such as from a coworking space, park or coffee shop. These employees may be obligated to travel to their company’s office for occasional meetings. People who travel for the majority of their work, such as salespeople, can also be described as having a remote job.

  • Virtual job: This position provides 100% location independence. Virtual jobs have no obligation for the employee to work in an office. Companies with this position often have no physical offices and may primarily employ contractors. While you may still need to work from a specific area for the company’s tax and regulatory needs, virtual jobs offer a lot of flexibility.

  • Work-from-home job: This position may or may not require you to have a home office. It may also require you to be available during standard business hours. However, a growing number of companies evaluate how their employees meet deadlines and provide results rather than try to manage how employees use their time.

What kinds of telecommuting jobs are there?

Telecommuting jobs exist in nearly every industry. The option to telecommute depends on your employer, your responsibilities and your need to interact with other teams.

Here are several industries that typically have telecommuting positions available:

Customer service

Sales and marketing

Information technology and computing

Education, training and coaching

Health care

Administration

While some employers may not offer telecommuting options at first, they might allow you to telework if you have maintained strong performance and your job requirements do not include frequent in-person interaction.

To find telecommuting jobs, you can use the Indeed search engine by typing in keywords like “Telecommute,” “Telework” or “Remote.”

Why might telecommuting have a location requirement?

While most telecommuting jobs allow you to work from any location, others may have location requirements. For example, while you may be able to work remote, you might also have to go into the office occasionally for important meetings or events that require your physical presence.

Another common reason some organizations have telework location restrictions is tax and legal requirements. For example, if you hold a certain certification or license, you may only be eligible for positions within the state your credentials are valid.

Pros and cons of telecommuting

While teleworking can offer benefits for employers and employees, it can also present challenges. Employers benefit from telecommuting because it reduces cost and can increase job satisfaction. Employees spend less time and money on transportation and may experience improved work-life balance while telecommuting.

However, some telecommuters experience a loss of professional direction out of the office. Careful planning, scheduling, time management and a well-defined workspace are important to maintain productivity.

Factors to consider when applying to teleworking opportunities

The flexibility of telework jobs makes them a good fit for many who cannot work a standard 9-5 desk job. While telecommuting positions can certainly seem appealing, there are a few factors you should consider before accepting one.

Take some time to think through the following factors if you are considering a telework job. If you’re unsure about the answers, ask the hiring manager when interviewing for the position:

  • Qualifications. Does the company require previous telecommuting experience? Will you be working with supervisors or will you dictate your own schedule?

  • Flexibility. Does the employer allow 100% telecommuting or only partial? Do you need to log into an office portal during work hours or use a time-tracking app? Are you required to be available during standard work hours?

  • Location. What options do you have for a workspace? Will the company allow you to work outside of the state or country? Does the company's insurance cover you while working from an off-site location?

  • Security and equipment. What supplies will the company provide? These items may or may not include a computer, printer, phone, internet modem and cybersecurity. Can you use public Wi-Fi?

  • Communication. What tools do you need to communicate with the rest of the company? Does the role require frequent meetings? Are you familiar with technology the company uses?

  • Distractions. If telecommuting, it is important to maintain the discipline and motivation needed to work out of the office. Consider whether a virtual work environment would be productive for you.

Remote work can offer benefits for all parties. However, it is often unstructured. While many people enjoy this flexibility, others prefer a schedule or routine. Consider what is best for you before accepting a telecommuting position.