Both remote working and “working from home” are popular workplace trends that have real benefits for your team. In fact, there are huge benefits for your company as well, especially when you think about the ability to add talented team members regardless of their locations.
There’s a problem, though. Working from home and remote working aren’t the same, so it’s time to stop talking about your remote workers as though they’re just not in the office.
There’s a difference. One is considered a benefit, while the other is simply a way of working. “Working from home” is a temporary situation, while remote working is an entirely different approach to getting things done. That difference is an extremely important distinction that deserves some attention. Everything about the remote work environment is different from that of your office, where team members have a desk and workspace provided by your company.
Working From Home
Work from home is what you do when you work in an office but stay home on Thursday because you need a change of scenery. Or perhaps you don’t have any face-to-face meetings tomorrow, so you decide to avoid the office for the day. It’s also something you might do on occasion when you need a block of time without the interruption of co-workers poking their heads in your office.
You might bring your work laptop home and set it up on the kitchen table or at your desk. In general, it 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. It’s effective mostly because it’s different from normal. You still have the framework and structure of your office, and the people who work there adjust their work given your absence.
Also, no one forgets to include the boss on an email just because he worked from home yesterday. He still has an office right over there, and you know that if you mess something up you’ll probably be invited in for a conversation. The same isn’t always true when you work remotely, especially if you aren’t the boss.
Remote working, or working outside of your company’s office all the time, is fundamentally different. It 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.
Remote working requires creating your own work environment, which certainly has benefits since you can establish your space so it works best for you. At the same time, you don’t have the safety of an office, or cubicle, or desk to land at when you have to hunker down–unless you create it yourself.
The office perks are incredible, as long as you’re willing to make your own avocado toast or triple-Americano. Oh, and there’s life and all of the other things that happen during the day. You know, like family members who forget, just because you’re there, that you’re actually working.
Don’t get me wrong. I work remotely, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the freedom to work how and when it best fits into my life. And, when I need a change of scenery, I can work from Starbucks (or wherever) for the day.
With the right set of tools and a few productivity tips, working remotely can be an incredible way of working. It’s just different than working from home, so let’s stop talking about them as if they’re the same.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.