Fifty Terms Invented and Accelerated from Remote Work (and Leap Day of the Swan)

Grey Swan Guild
8 min readFeb 23, 2024

The new lexicon of our remote, distributed professional life.

An entirely new lexicon entered our world 2020–2024. On the heels of our Guild’s Leap Day of the Swan Event happening February 29th, 2024 where we explore the many facets and knock on effects of this remote work movement, we explore this world and a new dictionary of pseudo-office culture.

  1. Telecommuting: Working from a location other than the office. Coined by NASA engineer Jack Nilles in 1973.
  2. Remote Work: Performing work tasks from a location outside the traditional office. Undetermined origin
  3. Virtual Office: A digital workspace that allows remote collaboration. Coined by Chris Kern in September 1983 (American Way magazine).
  4. Distributed Teams: Teams spread across different geographical locations. Popularized by book Distributed Work in 2002 by Pamela J Hinds and Sara Kiesler.
  5. Flextime: A flexible work schedule that allows employees to choose their working hours. Coined by German management consultants Christel Kammerer and Wilhelm Haller. in 1960.
  6. Flexspace: A flexible workspace that can be adapted to different needs. Originated in the 1980s, undetermined origin.
  7. Telework: Another term for telecommuting or remote work. Coined by NASA engineer Jack Nilles in 1973.
  8. Digital Nomad: A person who works remotely and travels, often changing locations. Used since early 1990s, popularized by authors Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners in their 1997 book of the same name.
  9. Hybrid Work: A combination of remote and in-office work. Undetermined origin although term started to be used and practiced in early 2000s.
  10. Agile Workspace: A dynamic and adaptable workspace to accommodate different work styles. Undetermined origin but used since early to mid 200s in association with agile software movement.
Past 5 Years — “Remote Work”, “Work from home”, “Zoom” as search term popularity (Source: Google Trends)

11. Hot Desking: An office arrangement where employees don’t have assigned desks. Undetermined orgin but borrowed from 16th cetruery naval practice of “hot racking” where sailors shared same beds in shifts.

12. Collaboration Tools: Software and applications that facilitate remote team collaboration. Originated from the idea to use computers in order to work with each other by Vannevar Bush and his “memex” systrem in 1945.

13. Zoom Fatigue: Tiredness or burnout resulting from excessive use of virtual meetings. Zoom, the company, was named as a company in 2012 by CEO and former Cisco Webex Eric Yuan, influenced by Thacher Hurd’s children’s book Zoom City fomerly called Saasbee Inc.; term grab hold shortly after the platfrom spiked in mid-2020 and Yuan admitted feeling tired after 19 consecutive conference calls..

14. Ergonomics: Designing the workspace to optimize comfort and efficiency. Coined by Polish scientist, naturalist and inventor,Wojciech Jastrzębowski in 1857 with a focus on the body in relationship to productivity.

15. Cybersecurity: Measures to protect digital systems and data. Bob Thomas is a computer scientist who is widely regarded as the father of cybersecurity; he is best known for creating the first computer virus, called the “Creeper” virus, in 1971. The term caught tractioin in late 1980s.

16. VPN (Virtual Private Network): A secure network connection over the internet. VPN technology was first used in 1996 invented by Microsoft employee Gurdeep Singh-Pall.

17. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): Allowing employees to use their personal devices for work. Entered common use in 2009, courtesy of Intel, triggered by many different tablets and mobile phones being used.

18. Cloud Computing: Storing and accessing data and programs over the internet. Coined by Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google on August 9, 2006, at the Search Engine Conference.

19. Synchronous Communication: Real-time communication, such as video calls or phone calls. Undetermined origin.

20. Asynchronous Communication: Communication that doesn’t require an immediate response, like emails or messaging. Undetermined origin.

Work From Home — Why the Allure? (Source: Gitlab)

21. Remote Collaboration: Working together on projects without being in the same physical location. Undetermined rogin although advanced by Douglas Engelbart first envisioned collaborative computing in 1951 and groupware movement in late 1980s.

22. Digital Communication Skills: Proficiency in communicating effectively through digital channels. Stems from historian and educator Paul Gilster’s term “digital literacy” in 1997.

23. WFH (Work From Home): Abbreviation for remote work. Origins go back to Jack Nilles, WFH became the #1 ‘workplace acronym’ used since COVID world of 2020.

24. Time Tracking Software: Tools to monitor and record time spent on tasks. The first patent for a time clock was by New York Inventor William LeGrand Bundy in 1888.

25. Task Management: Organizing and overseeing tasks to ensure completion. Undetermined origin.

26. Flexible Hours: Allowing employees to choose their start and end times. Undetermined origin, however 27% of the U.S. workforce now reports having an ability to alter their daily starting and ending times of work.

27. Video Conferencing: Conducting meetings through video platforms. The first concepts of video conferencing appeared in the 1870s from Bell Labs who eventually developed a video phone by 1927.

28. Productivity Apps: Applications designed to enhance work efficiency. Office suites of software were popularized in the 1980s, Apple popularized the app — the portmanteau of both words shortly followed.

29. Remote Onboarding: Orienting and integrating new employees who work remotely. Undetermined origin.

30. Work-Life Balance: Maintaining a healthy equilibrium between work and personal life. Robert Owen, Welsh manufacturer in early 1800s is generally credited with concept; “work-life balance” as a term first appears in the U.K. in the 80’s as part of the Women’s Liberation Movement.

Remote Work Long term Expectation (Source: Gallup 2023)

31. Remote Leadership: Managing and leading teams in a remote work environment. Undetermined origin.

32. Digital Security: Measures to protect digital information from unauthorized access. Credited computer programmer with BBN Bob Thomas in 1971.

33. Nomadic Workforce: Employees who frequently change their work locations. Credited to founder of what would become AT&T Mobility Craig McCaw in 1993 who surmised a new nomadic industry through the union of telecommunication and computing.

34 . Geographically Dispersed Teams: Teams located in different regions or countries. Reagan Ramsower began researching these teams as early as 1983.

35. Workation: Combining work with vacation, often in a remote location. Originated by Vanessa Van Edwards, founder of Science of People, in a 2013 Huffington post article.

36. On-Demand Workforce: Hiring freelancers or contractors for specific tasks as needed. Popularized by Dan Pink in 2001 in his Free Agent Nation book.

37. Remote Culture: Establishing and maintaining company values and communication in a remote setting. Undetermined origin.

38. Digital Etiquette: Guidelines for polite and effective online communication. Netiquette Guidelines were developed in 1995 by Intel.

39. Communication Fatigue: Feeling overwhelmed by constant digital communication. Undetermined origin.

40. Remote Project Management: Overseeing and coordinating projects with a remote team. Undetermined origin.

What part of Your Life Will Chage the Most After the Pandemic? (Soource: Grey Swan Guild/Weathervanes research & Intelligence Weathervane)

41. Workforce Mobility: The ability of employees to work from various locations. Undetermined origin.

42. Employee Engagement: Involving and motivating remote employees in company activities. Credited to Boston University professor of organisational behaviour William Kahn in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

43. Flexible Policies: Company rules that accommodate different work arrangements. Credited to program director of employment and earnings at IWPR and scholar in eesidence at American University Ariane Hegewisch in publication Flexible Working Policies.

44. Workforce Resilience: The ability of a team to adapt and thrive in challenging circumstances. Psychologist Emmy Werner in the 1970s pioneered resilience, clinical psychologist Salvatore Maddi applied research to workplace in the 1990s.

45. Home Office Ergonomics: Designing a comfortable and efficient home office space. No specific origination, however intensive home office research report in 2020 by Davis et al.

46. Remote Training: Providing education and training to employees working remotely. Undetermined origin.

47. Decentralized Workforce: Employees spread across different locations without a central office. Undetermined origin.

48. Smart Office Technology: IoT devices and technologies used to enhance office efficiency. Popularized in the mid 2010s.

49. Distributed Leadership: Leadership that is shared among team members in different locations. Australian psychologist and university administor Cecil Gibb in 1954.

50. Flexible Scheduling: Allowing employees to adjust their work hours within certain limits. Popularized in schools from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Work from Home Frequency (Spurce: Resume Builder August 2023)

Leap Day of the Swan — A Unique Summit on the Last Four Years and the Next Four Years

It happens every…
126,144,000 seconds
2,102,400 minutes
35,040 hours
1,460 days
4 years of orbits ‘round the sun…​

It’s Leap Day — a four year milestone our Guild wants to celebrate and milepost … because a lot can happen in four years.​

Leap Day has been notorious for being ignored unless you happen to have a wedding anniversary, or you are a Leapling (born on Feb 29th). But in times past this day was decorated with out-of-norm traditions such as Irish Bachelor’s day or a two-day Roman celebration.

The Grey Swan Guild has decided to create a new tradition that includes some distinctive smarts and fun, A Leap Day of the Swan! Event convenes February 29th at 10am ET/ 7amPT/ 4pm CEST. Join us for our very first edition.

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Now coming up to our 4th year of our Guild, we have built eleven ventures to tap into the enourmous value and reservoir of talent found inside the Guild.

Here’s what you can do in the Guild:

Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work. To get directly involved in any one of our 11 Cygnus Ventures (powered by the Grey Swan Guild) including producing or hoisting our Craft Building Series, click here.

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Grey Swan Guild — Making Sense of the World and Next Grey Swans

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