What Should We Call People Who Work Remotely?

Telework, Telecommuting, and More

Young woman sitting with mug in home office
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There are quite a number of terms used to describe people who work remotely or outside of a traditional office environment. Although some of the terms have distinct meanings, others are synonyms for each other. This overlap can make it hard to find out information and statistics about remote working (like trying to find out how many people actually telecommute), since sources can be talking about the same thing but use different terminology. Here's a look at some of the prevalent terms and their connotations.

Telecommuters and teleworkers

People who work remotely (e.g., from home) as employees of a company are most regularly called telecommuters or teleworkers. Although telework and telecommuting seem to refer to the same thing, Jack Nilles, who coined the phrases in 1973, makes clear distinctions between "telecommuting" and "telework". If you want to find a work-from-home job, though, it's best to search for both these terms, since many people use them interchangeably.

Mobile professionals and remote workers

Mobile professionals and remote workers are more commonly used terms to describe those who work from remote locations, such as from a home office. They may be freelancers, such as writers, editors, graphic designers, or other professionals who produce deliverables that can easily be sent through email or a secure network connection.

iWorkers, eWorkers, and web workers

The iWorker, eWorker (or e-Worker), and web worker designations more finely reflect the high-tech or internet-based nature of remote work. While telecommuters are often thought of as work-from-home employees, these may describe those who work in alternate locations (e.g., at a wi-fi hotspot) as well as from home. These terms have fallen out of favor and few organizations or people use them.

Road warriors

Road warriors are frequent business travelers or those who often conduct business on the road; depending on who you speak to, this might also include professionals who do most of their work in the field. As such, road warriors are a unique group of people who work remotely, making their home offices wherever they can use their laptops, whether that be in hotels, at the airport, or even out of their cars. Road warriors can be considered telecommuters also, depending on the amount of business travel done, but surveys that measure the number of telecommuters usually don't include road warriors along with people who work from home.

Other Terms

There are a great many other new terms to describe workers who aren't cubicle dwellers, such as "digital nomads," "location-independent professionals," and "technomads." These names all reflect the freedom remote workers have in doing their jobs from anywhere. Portable professional and virtual worker are odd terms that have been used but aren't seen much any more.

Whichever name you prefer for yourself, though, the takeaway is the same: telecommuting benefits both you and business.