Do you know what hybrid working is? Are you familiar with flextime? If you’re thinking of working remotely for a company or are thinking of taking on your own remote workers, it could benefit you to get to know some of the lingo associated with remote work. Below is a glossary of some of the most common terms used in this field.
Remote teams of workers often rely on cloud collaboration. This involves working collaboratively on documents and files that are shared on the cloud. The likes of Google Docs and Microsoft Office Online are two popular cloud-based platforms that allow two or more users to work on a document at the same time. This is much more convenient than emailing documents back and forth. Various other platforms can allow teams to collaborate using the cloud including Slack, Asana, Dropbox and Trello.
A ‘coffice’ is a combination of the word ‘coffee’ and ‘office’. It is a slang term to describe a coffee bar that someone uses as an office. Working from a coffice can have many benefits such as combating loneliness and creating work/home boundaries. It can also be a useful space for meeting clients, plus you can enjoy great coffee as you work. It can however have some drawbacks such as distractions and no guarantee of getting a table.
A coworking space is an office space that is shared by lots of different companies, including individual remote workers. Such spaces can give remote workers the feeling of working in an office around people without having to rent out an office building (instead, you can pay daily for a desk or pay a monthly subscription fee to pop in when you like). And unlike a coffice, the space is purpose-built for people to work from, so you don’t have to deal with distractions from non-working people.
A digital nomad is someone who travels while working remotely. Because many remote jobs can be worked flexibly from any location, it gives workers the option to travel as they work. This usually involves working from hotels and hostels, and then sightseeing and travelling in one’s free time.
Also known as ‘flexitime’, flex time is a style of working that allows workers to set their own start and finish times each day. Usually when working a flex time schedule for a company, you will have to work a set amount of hours each day, but you get to decide when you work these hours. This will usually be within a limited window such as any 8 hours between 5am and 9pm. Such a schedule can allow people working from home to more easily work around commitments like kids and pets to suit their lifestyle. Companies may still require flex time workers to clock in and out to prove they are working their set hours.
A freelancer is someone who is self-employed and who takes on various jobs for various clients. Rather than owning a business, a freelancer typically operates under their own name and does not hire employees. Many remote workers hired by companies are freelancers. A benefit of hiring freelancers is that they do not need to be paid employee benefits and you do not have to handle their tax. Freelancers do however have more freedom to say no to tasks they don’t want to do and can work for other companies while working for yours. On top of this, freelancers often get to set their own rates and their own hours.
Setting up a home office is the dream for many remote workers who work from home. This is a dedicated room that is used to carry out work from. Many remote workers do not have a home office and simply work from another room such as a living room, dining room or bedroom. Working from a home office can have benefits for remote workers such as greater privacy, reduced distractions, a great work/home divide and possibly even greater tax deductions.
Hot desking is a desk allocation system used by many co-working spaces and some companies. Instead of workers having a permanently assigned desk, each desk is allocated among various different people depending on who wants to work in the building and who has booked out a desk. Many companies that hire hybrid workers (a term which is explained below) rely on hot-desking. Instead of supplying 40 desks for 40 employees, a company can get away with supplying 20 desks and create a system in which different employees alternate between working remotely and working from the office.
Hybrid working is a system used by some companies in which employees work some days in the office and some days remotely. This offers the best of both worlds, while enabling hot-desking and reducing the need for as large an office. Some hybrid work systems allow employees to choose when they want to come into the office and when they want to work from home, while others may require a minimum number of days in the office.
IM stands for ‘instant messaging’ and is one of the most common forms of communication used by remote workers. Employees can quickly message individual colleagues back and forth instead of relying on emails, and can also join group chats (which can be a useful remote replacement for meetings). IM messaging tools used by businesses include the likes of WhatsApp, Slack, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and Flock.
Outsourcing involves relying on third parties (such as other companies or freelancers) to carry out tasks instead of relying on in-house employees. Outsourcing a task like accounting or marketing can often be cheaper and more practical than hiring a full-time accountant or marketer as an employee. A lot of outsourced work has been made possible thanks to the option of remote work – whereas a receptionist might have once had to be hired as an employee, the internet has made it easier to outsource a receptionist instead.
Who is classified as a remote worker? Technically, anyone who works for an employer but does not work in the same office as their employer is a remote worker. Remote work is most commonly used to describe desk work. Someone who is sent to different locations by an employer and who must work from those locations (such as a driver or TV setup engineer) may be classed as a ‘field agent’.
‘Telecommute’ is a slang term for ‘work remotely’. It is a combination of the words ‘telecommunication’ and ‘commute’. Someone who telecommutes does not need to commute to an office and instead gets to their office by jumping online or picking up the phone.
Video call/video conference
Many remote workers use video calls or video conferences to communicate with employers and other colleagues, as well as potentially clients. This involves communicating via live video using a platform such as Skype, Zoom,Google Meet or BlueJeans. Video calls can allow face-to-face communication without having to meet in person. This can make them more personable than a phone call or email. The downside is that too much video calling may lead to tiredness and anxiety (see ‘Zoom fatigue’).
A virtual assistant is typically a self-employed worker who specializes in carrying out various admin tasks for clients remotely. This could include bookkeeping, data entry, appointment scheduling, arranging travel, content writing or updating social media. Outsourcing a virtual assistant is often a lot cheaper than hiring a secretary.
Some companies operate without a physical office at all. Instead, the employer runs the business from home and hires all their employees remotely. All interactions are carried out digitally – making it essentially a ‘virtual office’. The term ‘virtual office’ is also sometimes used to describe companies that outsource a physical address for mailing purposes. Another company collects all the company’s mail and then relays it to them. This allows companies to still give clients the impression of having a physical office, while also preventing business owners from having to share their personal home address.
VPN stands for ‘virtual private network’. Using a VPN allows you to encrypt your internet connection so that other users of that network cannot steal sensitive data. It is recommended that all remote workers use a VPN when working from a public network (the types of network commonly found in places like coffee bars, co-working spaces and hotels). Many security software programs now come with VPN features. Alternatively, you can pay to download VPN apps.
VoIP stands for ‘voice of internet protocol’. It is used to describe a type of phone system that uses the internet to make and receive calls instead of a landline or mobile connection. VoIP phone systems are popular among companies with remote workers as VoIP numbers can be set up to be answered from any device in any location. VoIP phone systems can also be cheaper, plus you can digitally track and analyze all calls. The downside of them is that they rely on a strong internet connection – internet problems could mean that you also can’t use the phone.
‘WFH’ stands for ‘work from home’. It is sometimes used by employers when describing remote job vacancies. Working from home is the most common form of remote work.
Finally, there’s the term ‘Zoom fatigue’. This buzzword that was coined during the pandemic refers to an exhaustion and anxiety that comes with spending too much time on video calls. Remote workers are more likely to spend a lot of time doing video calls and it is therefore important to take steps to reduce Zoom fatigue by only communicating via video call when necessary. This guide to Zoom fatigue delves more into the causes.