The term ‘telework’ or ‘teleworking’ refers to a work flexibility arrangement under which an employee performs the duties and responsibilities in a worksite other than the traditional office setting.

In practice, “telework” is a work arrangement that allows and employee to perform work, during any part of regular, paid hours, at an approved alternative worksite (e.g., home, telework center). This definition of telework includes what is generally referred to as remote work but does not include any part of work done while on official travel or mobile work.

You may also be familiar with the terms “telecommuting” and “flexible workplace”.  Both are sometimes used by different companies to describe what is now generally refer to as “telework.”


While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably with telework,  they offer a different set of opportunities. Usually these are in relation to a subcontractor situation, where the worker can perform their duties at any time or place they choose. Teleworkers are typically limited to a set hourly schedule and an approved location.

What terms are used for Telework?

Many of the terms used in the alternative workplace field are used loosely on their specific meaning. Below are typical definitions:

  1. Telework or telecommuting
  2. Telework center
  3. Virtual office or virtual workplace
  4. Hoteling
  5. Hot desking
  6. Desk Sharing
  7. Alternative Workplace Arrangement (AWA)

Telework and telecommuting

These synonymous terms mean the act of performing all or a portion of work functions at an alternative worksite, such as working from home or a telework center, to reduce or eliminate an employee’s commute. To be considered telework for federal purposes, telework must occur at least one day per week on a regular and recurring basis and does not include (1) situational telework (unscheduled, project-oriented, non-recurring, and/or irregular telework and/or any teleworking that occurs less frequently than once a week on a recurring basis) or (2) full-time mobile work arrangements.

Telework center

A telework center is a facility that (1) provides workstations and other office facilities/services that an employee utilizes (typically on a fee for use/service basis) from several organizations and (2) an employee uses the facility as a geographically convenient alternative worksite for its users. Listed are different types of alternative worksites, including telework centers and virtual office solutions.

Virtual office or virtual workplace

A virtual office is a work environment in which employees work cooperatively from different locations using a computer network (in lieu of a single building or other single physical location). As opposed to a single location site (facility) where workers are housed, the virtual office is typically a collaborative communications medium, such as a computer network, where workers gather electronically to collaborate and/or carry out other work activities. The actual physical locations of the employees working in a virtual office can be temporary or permanent and can be nearly anywhere, such as their homes, satellite offices, hotel rooms, corporate offices (shared work space), airports, airplanes, or automobiles.


Hoteling is when (1) employees work in one facility (facility A) part of the time and at one or more alternative worksites the rest of the time and (2) when working in facility A, these employees use non-dedicated, non-permanent workspaces assigned for use by reservation on an as-needed basis.

Hot desking (also known as free address or touchdown workstations):

Hot desking is (1) employees work in one facility (Facility A) part of the time and at one or more alternative worksites the rest of the time and (2) when working in Facility A, these employees use non-dedicated, non-permanent workspaces assigned on a first come, first served basis.

Desk sharing

Desk sharing is work arrangement in which two or more employees share the same workstation in a typically pre-arranged manner that allows each of the employees to have sole access to the specified workstation on given days while the others involved in the sharing arrangement work elsewhere. The challenge for desk sharing is the need to come to an agreement on a mutually satisfying schedule for use of the workstation as well as the need to work with the desk habits of others.