The Remote Work Dictionary

The Remote Work Dictionary

Newcomers to the remote work world might feel confused about some of the unique terminology insiders use. What in the world is a “free-range” worker? What is the difference between a “telecommute” job and a “remote” job? Is “agile” another word for a “flexible” location? Don’t worry, Yonder’s got your back. With these definitions of industry-unique terms, you’ll be talking the talk in no time. (Note: a * indicates the most commonly used terms.)


Agile: A method of project management that divides tasks into short phases of work with frequent progress checks. Mostly used for tactile work, such as software development. Learn more here and here. (see also: scrum meeting, sprint, standup meeting, tactile work)


Asynchronous Communication: Communication that happens slowly and is usually archived for future reference. Examples include email, message boards, and voice mail. Participants do not need to be present and immediately available for this type of communication. (compare to: synchronous communication)


Brick-and-mortar Business: A business with a physical office workplace environment (see also: co-located company, office environment)


Cloud Work: Work where all communication, information, and files are shared and stored online.


* Co-located Company: A business with a physical office workplace environment in which the majority of the workforce works together. (see also: brick-and-mortar business, office environment)


Co-working Space: A work environment that is shared by workers (often freelancers, digital nomads, and entrepreneurs) who aren’t employed by the same company. The space often provides office supplies like wifi, printers, and snack stations.


Digital Nomad: An employee that independently travels, often internationally, while working remotely. (see also: remote workers)


Digital Workplace: The virtual equivalent of a physical workplace.


* Distributed Team: A distributed working group. This could be an entire company, a department, or a project-based team.


Distributed Work: Work where the entire team is geographically distributed, usually without a central physical office.


eWork: An antiquated term for working on an online office network. (see also: telecommute, telework)


Explicit Communication: Messages that are communicated clearly and with obvious details, leaving no room for error in interpretation. (compare to: implicit communication)


Flex Time: Short for “flexible time” – meaning that a person’s work hours don’t need to happen during a set, scheduled workday.


Free-range Worker: A geo-flexible worker. A person who can work from wherever they are able to be productive. Most work from home, a co-working space, or their local coffee shop. (see also: digital nomad, remote employee)


Freelance Work: A short-term work arrangement in which a company hires an independent contractor to temporarily complete a single task or role. (see also: freelancer)


Freelancer: A self-employed person who works as an independent contractor, usually for multiple companies, instead of as an employee for a single company. (see also: freelance work)


Future of Work: A broad buzzword used to discuss upcoming technologies, work arrangements, processes, traditions, and motivators that will influence the way humans interact with careers and economy.


Gig Economy: The modern economic shift away from permanent employment arrangements to short-term contracts and freelance work.


Hybrid Teams: Workforces that consist of both co-located and remote employees.


Implicit Communication: Messages that are communicated vaguely or are implied, leaving room for various interpretations. (compare to: explicit communication)


In-person Meeting: A conventional meeting where people are present in the same physical location.


Learning and Communication Modalities: The different communications styles which work best for different learners: visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic. Learn more here.


Off-site Meeting: A meeting that happens at a new, and often distant, destination, usually at a co-working facility, hotel, or rented conference room. (compare to: on-site meeting)


On-site Meeting: A meeting that happens at a location associated with a familiar brick-and-mortar workspace, usually the client/customer’s own office, common co-working space, or a retreat venue. (compare to: off-site meeting)


Office Environment: A conventional workplace where people work together in the same workspace.


Offshoring: Contracting or subcontracting work to a 3rd party company in another country, usually to maximize profits by using low-paid overseas labor. (see also: outsourcing)


Outsourcing: Contracting or subcontracting work to a 3rd party company. (see also: offshoring)


Remote Curious: A term coined by Jeff Robbins of Yonder to describe brick-and-mortar businesses that are intrigued by the benefits of remote work and are interested in learning more about how to transition into a distributed or hybrid company.


Remote Employee: A person who does remote work, or fulfills a role in a company without being present in the employer’s physical, centralized workplace.


* Synchronous Communication: Also referred to as “real time” communication. This type of communication requires participants to be present and focused. Examples include phone calls, conference calls, and video conferences.


Remote Hiring: Hiring people exclusively through virtual communication, without an in-person interview.


* Remote Work: Work that is done removed from a central brick-and-mortar office.


Retreat: In the remote work space, retreats are annual, semi-annual, or quarterly events in which all team members of a distributed company travel to the same destination for 1-7 days to work and play together to build culture, strengthen communication, and increase productivity.


Scrum Meeting: A very short meeting (usually held on a daily basis) associated with agile management in which team members efficiently answer three questions: What did I accomplish yesterday? What do I plan to accomplish today? Do I see any blocks that might prevent me from accomplishing my goal? Best used for tactile work. Learn more here. (see also: agile, standup meeting, tactical work)


Sprint: A short period of time dedicated to intense productivity for an entire team, during which interruptions are prevented and distractions are minimized.


Stand-up Meeting: A very short meeting (usually held on a daily or weekly basis) during which team members report on progress and explain upcoming goals.


Strategic Work: Planning, problem-solving, and decision-making work. (compare to: tactical work)


Tactical Work: Building and creating a project. Follow-through work. Sometimes called “heads down” work. This work usually makes up the bulk of most projects. (compare to: strategic work)


Telecommute: An antiquated term for a remote work arrangement in which the employee would often dial into the office network via telephone modem, therefore “commuting” over the “telephone.” (see also: eWork, telework)


Telework: An antiquated term for working on an office network via telephone modem, therefore “work” over the “telephone.” (see also: eWork, telecommute)


Video Call: A call utilizing both audio and visual elements so that participants can both see and hear each other as they communicate.


Virtual: Another antiquated term adopted from computer science terminology meaning “not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so.” Negative connotations include synonyms like ephemeral, artificial, simulated, short-lasting, and ad-hoc. Also, this is becoming a euphemism for outsourcing/offshoring. (see also: outsourcing, offshoring)


Work from Home: A work arrangement in which the employee primarily works from a home office instead of the company’s central brick-and-mortar office. (see also: remote work)


Work in Place: A work arrangement in which employees primarily work from locations of their choice instead of the company’s central brick-and-mortar office. (see also: remote work)