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Teleworking involves the substitution of telecommunications for any kind of work-related travel, that is, without necessarily involving distance restrictions; however, the two terms are often used interchangeably.
Teleworking, a broader term for “telecommuting,” is more often used in Europe and other countries, whereas “telecommuting” is more often used in the United States and Canada. Both terms often refer to working from home using telecommunications equipment or to the use of mobile telecommunications technology to be able to work from restaurants, coffee shops or other public locations. When distributed work from an employer uses information and communication technologies to replace commuting, it is referred to as telecommuting; when it does not, it is referred to as teleworking.
Jack Nilles concocted both terms back in 1973.
Beginning in the 1970s, technology began allowing teleworking as employees used “dumb terminals” with satellite links and telephone lines. With the increased use of computers in the home, work began moving away from the traditional workplace. And by the 1980s workers were able to connect to company mainframe computers from their homes. And the trend proliferated into the 1990s with Internet service providers (ISPs) making broadband Internet available to wider segments of the population. Today, laptop computers and mobile devices are used by teleworkers at home, at work and almost anywhere else with WiFi availability and “cloud computing.”
The potential benefits, both perceived and actual, of teleworking are many and varied. Employment percentages may rise as work from home or away from the office allows more people to be employed, such as the disabled, the elderly, retirees and those in remote locations. In turn, this relieves traffic congestions and overuse of the transportation infrastructure. Companies can choose from a more diverse and talented pool of employees with the added benefits of reduced spread of sickness and the associated loss of work, as well as potential increased productivity. Time and energy are saved by reduced travel time and “carbon footprints.”