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Buzzwords Defined: Workplace Primer


Kelly Barlow

Date Published

Sep 08, 2023
8 minute read

The workplace is famous for jargon. No matter the industry, there are terms thrown around that mean something in one workplace that would be met with stares of confusion in another. As we emerge from the pandemic, a new set of workplace jargon has appeared covering new ways of working.

To help you get a handle on some of these terms, here is workplace expert Kelly Barlow’s insight on the most common buzzwords we’re hearing in the new world of work.

Remote Worker. These are employees who are located outside of the commuting distance of the office. All remote workers are teleworkers; however, not all teleworkers are remote workers.

Workplace Buzzwords


If the type of work your organization specializes in is suitable for remote work, offering it as an option is a great way to retain and recruit top talent. It offers employees the opportunity to move outside of the commuting area to support their desired lifestyle and opens up the talent pool for employers. However, when offering remote work it is important to acknowledge to all employees that it is available, set criteria for being a remote worker, and establish a clear process for existing employees to request remote status.

Remote-first. A mindset or approach where remote work is prioritized and considered the default mode of work, even for employees located near the office.

Workplace Buzzwords


Remote-first offers a myriad of opportunities, such as reducing overhead costs (e.g., rent) and providing employees with maximum flexibility. However, it also poses challenges. When considering a remote-first approach, it is important to be intentional about the following:

  • Creating opportunities for Facetime and serendipitous interaction
  • Developing a sense of belonging and meaningful connections between employees and leaders
  • Setting virtual presence expectations to avoid burnout from a plethora of meetings and being on camera all day
  • Outfitting employees and managers to work effectively as a distributed team
  • Setting clear expectations for when working from the office is required (if at all)

Blended/hybrid workforce. A workforce that comprises a mix of remote and on-site employees (ideally collaborating and working together seamlessly).

Workplace Buzzwords


An effective hybrid workforce is dependent upon equity between remote and on-site workers. Here’s a simple example. Think about your last experience at an all-hands meeting as a virtual or remote participant. What was it like? Did you feel excluded or unheard because you weren’t there in person? Were the in-person attendees offered lunch while remote participants weren’t? When implementing a hybrid approach, it’s critical to consider the experience of all employees in both day-to-day work and special events.

Hot Desking. An office arrangement where employees do not have assigned desks but instead choose from available workstations on a first-come, first-served basis.

Workplace Buzzwords


With more people in a hybrid model, dedicated seating for every employee isn’t always necessary. However, hotdesks should provide employees with the space and equipment necessary to operate effectively (e.g., monitors, docking stations, power outlets, computer accessories, etc.). This ensures they can work from the office as effectively as they do from home.

Hoteling. An office arrangement where employees do not have assigned desks but instead reserve a seat through a reservation system for the days and times they want/need to be in the office.

Workplace Buzzwords


When establishing hotel seating, it is important to invest in a reservation system to allow employees to see seat availability, book a seat in advance, and see who else will be in the office that day. Here are a few tips for choosing and setting up your reservation system.

  • Choose a solution that can manage all space reservations (e.g., conference rooms AND hotel desks) to reduce system switching for employees
  • Be intentional about reservation “rules.” Putting guardrails in place that are supported by the reservation system will help support the culture you’re trying to create. For example: To prevent employees from “taking over” a seat, set the reservation system so employees can’t reserve the same seat multiple days in a row, limit the number of reservations someone can have at one time, and keep the booking window to two weeks out so employees have a better sense of their schedule when they book
  • Ensure the reservations system is easily accessible (e.g., computer and phone application) to allow for last-minute booking
  • Consider implementing a check-in rule requiring employees to check into their reservation within a certain timeframe (e.g., 10 minutes) or risk losing the reservation – this helps reduce unused reservations and leaves unused seats open for others to use

Activity-Based Working. An approach that provides employees with various types of workspaces suited for different tasks, allowing them to choose the environment that best suits their needs.

Workplace Buzzwords


Activity-based working is a great way to provide a variety of workspaces that support different work types and functions; however, it is dependent on having a mobile workforce ready and equipped to move around the space while staying connected. Successful activity-based working hinges on understanding how your people work best and outfitting employees on when and how to use the various workspaces effectively.

Digital Nomads. Individuals who work remotely while frequently traveling or changing their location, often leveraging technology to stay connected. These employees, sometimes referred to as Work-From-Anywhere, have no fixed position or expectation of where they will get work done as long as it gets done.

Workplace Buzzwords


This approach can be very liberating for employees; however, it can be painful for employers to navigate the legal and tax implications. Before employing digital nomads, it is important to consider the impact on benefits (e.g., health insurance), tax code, and other federal, state, local, and international regulations to understand the burden on the organization and set up parameters for your digital nomads to operate within. For example, determine if there are certain countries or areas where you do not allow employees to work due to security, tax code, or other restrictions.

Asynchronous Communication/Work. Communication methods that don’t require immediate response, allowing employees to work on their own schedules. Examples include email, project management tools, and shared documents.

Workplace Buzzwords


In general, think of asynchronous activities as a way to start and end your day. You start the day reviewing updates from other colleagues, such as those who are in a distant time zone. This informs the work you need to get done for the day. Throughout the day you document updates and new information, reviewing it before signing off for the day, leaving it for the next set of workers or your manager to review and understand the status of deliverables or projects. This can also work for employees in the same time zone. Doing similar activities to capture status updates, outstanding work, etc., can significantly reduce the number of meetings for these employees.

On-Site/In-office Days. Specific days or times when employees are required to come into the office to work, collaborate, meet, and engage in face-to-face interactions.

Workplace Buzzwords


Requiring at least some time in the office provides opportunities for deepening employees’ sense of belonging, connections within the organization, and knowledge of the organization and its work. To make in-office days worthwhile for employees, think about establishing programming or incentives that will draw people to the office that can’t be replicated at home.

  • Fireside chats with organization leaders
  • Ted Talks from teams about recent accomplishments, learnings, or work hacks
  • Space and building amenities (an important aspect to think about if you’re renovating or moving workspace in the near future)
  • New hire meet and greets
  • Desirable training opportunities

More on the Modern Workplace

As the workplace continues to change, navigating it is likely to become more complex. Our team of workplace experts is ready to help you develop a strategy to stay ahead of the curve. Reach out anytime – we’d love to chat through your challenges and opportunities. In the meantime, take a look at our Ideas & Insights page for more thought leadership from our workplace team.