Back to Basics: The ABCs of Telecommuting

Are you familiar with telecommuting lingo? Just like any industry, remote workers and virtual employers use certain words and phrases during the job search and hiring process. Use this list as a starting point to familiarize yourself with telecommuting vocabulary. 


Back to Basics: The ABCs of Telecommuting

Global Workplace Analytics estimates that at least 50% of Americans have telecommute-friendly jobs and 80-90% of employees want to telecommute at least partially. If you’re one of the many aspiring remote workers in this country, you’ll need to understand basic terminology associated with virtual occupations. To get you started, here’s a list of terms and concepts that all telecommuters should know.

Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software program that receives, stores, and organizes resumés and other job application materials. Employers and recruiters use ATS programs to make the hiring process easier and to help abide by employment discrimination laws.

Learn More: Top Tips for Writing Resumés That Will Pass ATS Software


Benefits include healthcare insurance, retirement plan contribution matching, fitness center memberships, and other employment advantages besides wages or salaries. Generally, employers provide benefits to full-time permanent employees but not independent contractors. Some employers also offer benefits to part-time or temporary employees.


Co-working spaces are where freelancers, entrepreneurs, small business teams, and traveling professionals can work instead of staying at home or in a traditional office. Telecommuters who want to feel more connected and network with other professionals can benefit from co-working.

Learn More: Co-working Cost Analysis: Is Renting Workspace Really Worth It?


Dropbox is an online document storage application where remote workers can upload and access shared files. Similar apps include OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, and SharePoint. Companies like using third-party cloud-based storage like Dropbox for collaboration, security, and compliance purposes. Plus, it makes managing remote teams more efficient.

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

Equal employment opportunity (EEO) refers to legislation that strictly prohibits employment discrimination. Examples of discrimination factors include age, sex, disability, color, religion, and national origin. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces employment discrimination legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) under which telecommuting may be considered a reasonable accommodation.

Learn More: Telecommuting as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA

Flexible Schedule

Many telecommute jobs offer flexible schedules in which you can do your work according to your own availability. Some employers may expect you to work during regular business hours so that you are available for meetings, training, and virtual events. Otherwise, many remote positions offer flexible schedules as a major employment perk.

Geographic Requirement

Some employers place geographic requirements on jobs due to local employment laws, healthcare insurance constraints, travel requirements, or license and certification applicability. Candidates can still work remotely from their homes or another location, but state lines or time zones may bind their primary place of residence.

Learn More: Why Do Telecommute Jobs Have a Location Requirement?

Home Office

If you work at home, it’s essential to create a separate, dedicated space for work, if possible. Though some people can work productively under the covers, reclined in a comfy chair, or with their feet perched up on the back patio, it’s helpful to create a space that’s comfortable and conducive to efficient work. Plus, a home office helps differentiate work hours so that family members know when you need quiet time to concentrate and take calls.


Employers usually conduct interviews for telecommute jobs by phone. They tend to stay away from video conference interviews to prevent potential employment discrimination. As a job seeker, it is important to practice phone interviews and have a quiet space to speak to prove that you have a suitable, professional working environment at home.

Learn More: Virtual Interviews: 9 Questions Candidates May Ask and How to Respond

Job Search Strategy

Telecommute job searching is time-consuming. Therefore, it helps to have a general job search strategy to make the application process more efficient. To start, consider your goals, what you offer besides technical skills, your ideal work schedule, what size and type of company you want to work with, and if you wish to work as a W-2 employee or independent contractor. Then, search online job boards like the Virtual Vocations database for positions that match your criteria. Set aside time each day or week to craft tailored resumés and cover letters, apply for jobs, and follow-up with employers.


Employers and recruiters often search for specific keywords in their ATS programs when they’re looking for candidates with particular skills, work experience, or certifications. To increase your chances of showing up in the search results, include industry keywords throughout your resumé and other application materials to match each job description.


LinkedIn is one of the most important social media platforms for job seekers and recruiters. Employers and recruiters use LinkedIn to seek new talent, review qualifications, and connect with potential candidates. In fact, LinkedIn reports that over 20,000 companies use the platform for recruiting and over three million jobs are posted in the U.S. each month. Therefore, it’s worth the time and effort to keep your profile updated and easily searchable.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office is a set of software applications that many businesses utilize. The most commonly used programs are Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Some employers also require skills in Outlook, Visio, Project, and SharePoint. Microsoft primarily offers Office 365, which includes a cloud-based software subscription and document storage service. Such cloud-based subscriptions allow telecommuters to access programs and files from any device anywhere in the world.


The nine-to-five is what your non-telecommuting friends still have to deal with while you get to structure your work schedule according to your peak brain hours, family needs, and lifestyle preferences. Though some occupations and companies require regular work hours, many employers offer flexible schedule a main perk to attract talented professionals.

Online Presence

As a telecommuter, your online presence helps validate your professional experience and legitimize your career. You don’t need much to create an online presence. To start, focus on creating a LinkedIn profile, restricting your privacy settings on your personal accounts, and build an online portfolio with your Virtual Vocations membership.

Learn More: Social Media Red Flags: 9 Mistakes Employers Can’t Ignore


Your portfolio provides samples of your work and demonstrates your skills and abilities. Portfolios are almost mandatory for certain professionals, such as writers, web developers, graphic designers, software programmers, and digital marketers. However, anyone in any profession should create a simple portfolio to supplement job application materials and showcase key achievements.


Qualifications are the skills, education, experience, and character traits needed to perform a specific job. Though it makes sense to apply for jobs that you are clearly qualified for, there’s no harm in stretching outside your current scope. According to a Harvard Business Review survey, most job seekers don’t want to waste their time applying for jobs they aren’t qualified for because they don’t think they’ll actually get hired. However, some influencers argue that companies should focus more on hiring individuals who fit their company culture rather than qualifications. Therefore, if you sense you’d be a good fit for a company, it might be worth a shot to apply.


Your resumé is your most crucial career document that highlights your achievements, skills, and work history. Be sure to tailor your resumé to each job description and include keywords, contact information, and concise descriptions of your accomplishments.

Learn More: Create a Winning Resumé Virtual Vocations e-Course Overview


Slack is a web application that companies use to maintain communication with team members, organize meetings, answer questions, and provide a place for teams to chat and bond. Similar programs include Campfire, Mattermost, Google Hangouts, Fleep, Jostle, and Hive. Some teams even use applications like Slack for project management. At its core, Slack is an effective way for virtual and dispersed teams to stay connected and develop relationships.


Telecommuting is the act of working outside a traditional workspace, such as company headquarters or corporate office. Some telecommuters prefer to work at home, while others frequent the neighborhood coffee shop, rent a co-working space, or take their work on the road. The beauty of telecommuting is that information can be stored in the cloud, so you can be mobile and move around the country or world without skipping a beat.

Unresponsive Employers

As a telecommute jobseeker, it can be frustrating to spend so much time preparing applications and never receive responses from employers. There are various reasons why employers and recruiters neglect to reply to your application, such as they have a substantial volume of applicants, your resumé didn’t get through their ATS, or you didn’t get the job and they don’t send rejection notifications.

Learn More: Employers Aren’t Responding to Your Job Applications? 12 Reasons Why

Virtual Company

A 100% virtual company does not have a single physical office location. Instead, virtual companies hire employees and contractors located around the nation. Personnel who work for virtual companies can often live any state or country, depending on the type of work and any potential geographic employment restrictions. Virtual Vocations is an example of a 100% virtual company with staff located around the U.S.

Work at Home

Work-at-home jobs are popular among parents, caregivers, and independent contractors. Telecommuters don’t have to work at home all the time; rather, they can also work while traveling or at a co-working space, coffee shop, public park, or private office building, for example. The advantage of working from home, however, is that employees can balance home responsibilities with job tasks. They can create their work schedule around their family life instead of restructuring their home life around their careers.


Your X-factor is what sets you apart from other job seekers. Don’t be afraid to demonstrate your uniqueness let your personality shine during the application process. Many modern companies seek innovative professionals who think outside the box and offer solutions that put them on the cutting edge.


Yammer is a Microsoft Office 365 social media platform that organizations use for employee collaboration and conversation. Users can create groups and focused discussions to assist with project management, workflow, and communication about events, changes, updates, and other announcements.

Zoning Laws

Zoning laws are local restrictions that separate residential, commercial, and industrial activities. Telecommuters, especially those who work from home, don’t often consider zoning laws when starting a new job. However, some cities and counties require work-from-home professionals to obtain a home occupation permit to work within a residential area.

Learn More: Do I Need Special Permits to Work from Home?

Looking for More Telecommuting Resources?

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