Many of the terms used in the alternative workplace field are used loosely and/or lack consensus on their specific meaning. Below are typical definitions in use.
- Telework or telecommuting
- Telework center
- Virtual office or virtual workplace
- Hot desking
- Desk Sharing
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.
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 an AWA in which (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 an AWA in which (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 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.