Flexible working vs. remote working – what’s the difference?

Being able to escape the 9-to-5, a culture of presenteeism and stifling office hierarchies is a dream many people crave – and the facts back it up. An estimated 14.1million workers want more flexibility in their work, according to The Guardian. But when it comes to asking your employer for changes in your work hours, or branching out on your own, it helps to understand the new terminology. Here’s what the new work language means.

So what does flexible working actually mean?

Think of this as the umbrella term for all the different types of work options now available to us. Flexible working simply means “any working schedule that is outside of a normal working pattern”, says FlexiWorkForce. It’s a way to work that suits your needs. If you’re in an office, flexible working could mean compressed hours (where you fit a week’s worth of hours into fewer, longer days), flexitime (where you work a set amount of ‘core hours’ and are flexible with the hours you work before and after these set hours) or annualised hours (where your number of hours for the year are set and when you choose to work – is up to you).

Is flexible working the same as remote working?

Sort of. Remote working is a type of flexible working, which means you aren’t commuting in to an office every day, and can also be referred to as ‘working from home’. Remote working means working from anywhere. In fact, some remote workers don’t even ‘meet’ their employers at all, instead, connecting with them digitally and from anywhere around the world. But for most of us, remote working ends up being based from our kitchen table or local café.

Do I have to be freelance to work remotely?

Not at all. Although remote working is hugely popular with freelancers, small business owners and start-ups, there are big changes happening in organisations, too. Research from the Institute of Leadership and Management found that working remotely has resulted in 13% performance increases – so it is a huge benefit to business. “It’s becoming increasingly acceptable, and beneficial, to implement more complex working patterns and reap the returns that they bring for both employers and their staff,” the research says.

So am I able to ask my boss to work flexibly?

In the UK, you have the right by law to ask your employer to work flexibly. There’s a good guide to the process at Gov.uk – although your employer can turn this request down. Then it’s up to you how you proceed. But things are changing in the workplace – now 77% of workers say that the option of flexible working would definitely make a job more attractive to them. The old-fashioned negative views of flexible working are dying out and more companies are recognising the great opportunities flexible working options offer them and their staff.

All in all, the rise of flexible working shows that being ‘at work’ used to be a place you went to – now it’s more a state of mind.