Many professionals have been working remotely at home or in coworking spaces long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the number of remote work employees has increased, and is rising rapidly.
However, little has been written about the distinction between “working at home” and “remote working,” which is surprising, because, as many remote employees will tell you, it’s a very important one.
While remote employees might work at home some or all of the time, clarifying the difference between the two is important for both employee job satisfaction and company success.
What’s the difference between working from home and remote work?
Let’s look at these 5 key differences, and understand why it’s so important to distinguish between the two when we refer to them.
- Employer policies: Typically, being a remote employee usually implies that you have been hired specifically to work remotely. On the contrary, working from home can sometimes be a temporary or occasional arrangement with your employer, or something hybrid work employees do for part of their work week. But oftentimes, remote work employees have specific policies and expectations around communication, productivity, and availability during their workday, as well as specific tools, software, and equipment to help them do their job effectively.
- Work arrangement: As someone who works from home, you may typically do the same job you do in the office, but just from your residence. However, remote employees may be working on a different schedule or even from a different location than their colleagues. And, their job duties may be more specifically tailored to a remote work setting.
- Career path: As a remote employee, you may have opportunities for advancement within a remote work organization, or you may be able to transition to different remote work positions within the same company. Working from home is often a temporary arrangement, or a personal choice that accommodates a specific personal situation rather than something that’s intentional and career driven.
- Daily routine: Working from home is often a change in a person’s normal work routine. They stay home one day because they have a sick child, or a doctor’s appointment. They set up their laptop at their kitchen table. A remote work employee typically has the same daily schedule, often mirroring what they might have in an office.
- Flexibility: When an employee works from home, that could mean a variety of things: taking calls in the car or typing memos on the sideline of their child’s soccer game. While a remote employee could work from a coworking space, or even a coffee shop (depending on their line of work), their job typically requires them to be in an office, working during specific office hours.
READ MORE: How to empower your remote work employees
So, why is the distinction between “working from home” and “remote work” important?
First, we need to understand that remote workers should possess certain skills that in-office employees may not have just by the nature of their location. In a recent Inc. article, Jason Aten wrote:
“[Remote work] requires a different set of abilities, resources, and skills. It requires a self-starting attitude and insane levels of time management skills. It also requires proactive communication and an almost hyperfocus on what’s happening with team members since you don’t have the regular face time with them.”
We also need to understand that remote work is truly like working in a physical office which just so happens to be in your home (or a coworking space).
As Aten noted, “In general, [working from home] represents a significant change from your normal routine and your normal pace of work–which can be a very good thing once in a while.”
Remote work is an intentional decision that requires specific tools, equipment, and an environment that is conducive to productivity.
As more companies move to fully remote environments, it’s imperative for their success and the success of their employees to thoughtfully communicate what it means to remote first, and create a supportive environment.