What's Telework?

There is still a fair amount of confusion as to what, exactly, are teleworking and telecommuting? Our answers go into some detail but, first, here are our general definitions:

These definitions go a long way to separate telework from other kinds of work, but some more detail may be needed to better identify the population of teleworkers. In response to many requests (and arguments) about the nature of telework, here is a more detailed definitional framework.



Units or Scale

Telework "Success" Criteria

Frequency   at least 10% of annual working hours
    Daily hours per day normal full working day
    Weekly days per week  
Time Distribution hour intervals no specific criteria
Periodicity regular to random no specific criteria
Location Parameters   at least 20 minutes one-way trip between teleworker and employer/client
    Teleworker geographic location telework must involve technology substitution for what "normally" would involve travel
    Co-worker geographic location telework must involve technology substitution for what "normally" would involve travel
    Employer/Client geographic location  
   "Commute" distance km or mi. telecommuter is one who otherwise would travel daily to employer/client site
Enabling Technology   at least one technology type is normally used
    Telecommunications technology type(s) whatever provides sufficient bandwidth (increasing requirements for broadband) and security
    Computer technology type(s) typically, comparable to standard office gear (plus printer)
Technology Use Frequency usage intervals/day technology used at least 10% of working hours
Technology Importance vital to useless one or more technology applications must be vital to telework process
Employment status employee/contract worker, self-employed teleworker must get paid for effort that includes teleworking
Nature of Work Job title, category in general, telework tasks must be information/knowledge oriented
Nature of Communications from routine data transfer to complex negotiation no specific criteria

Some explanation of this table is in order. We feel that the table captures the key features of telework and teleworkers, and helps distinguish between teleworkers and non-teleworkers—or between the times you might be teleworking and the times you're not.

If you've read this far and have any comments, gripes, or polite suggestions about these definitions, please email us directly.

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Last modified: Thursday April 11, 2013.

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