Think about this. There’s a growing amount of workers in this country trading in the bumper-to-bumper traffic of their commute, the bad company coffee and annoying impromptu meetings – for their home offices.
According to Flexjobs.com, the number of workers who telecommute has increased by over 60% since 2005. Flexible work schedules have risen in popularity as well, with over 2 million people working with flexible schedules part-time or full-time.
Those numbers keep growing, especially with the rise in convenience of cloud technology. Cloud services allow telecommuters to work from anywhere and maintain constant communication with coworkers – transferring files and accessing office programs. Because of cloud advances, there are a growing number of “cloud commuters” in the American workforce: remote workers who rely on the cloud for connection to their offices, software, files, and more.
Many telecommuters have become cloud commuters.
Cloud commuters utilize cloud-based services and technologies that allow them to work from home (or the coffee shop, the library or even by the pool) with information stored and manipulated on the cloud. Cloud computing allows workers, or anyone with permission, to access different programs, files and information stored on this web-based application.
Cloud commuting has gained in popularity due to the steady rise in Internet speeds and Wi-Fi availability. Workers with access to fiber like Verizon’s FiOS Internet or Google Fiber can access Internet speeds into the hundreds of megabits per second, while hot spot providers like Karma can provide fast Internet on the go (you know, when you’re just out of range from Starbuck’s free Wi-Fi).
With speeds like this, files can load remotely in fractions of a second, increasing productivity, even outside of the office.
Cloud commuters, along with the folks in the office, can get to and use the information anywhere. Web-based applications we use every day utilize the cloud. Blackboard websites, Facebook and Gmail are examples of services that keep all their information available to users online.
There are other cloud services that companies – or individuals, can purchase storage space from. For a monthly fee, cloud services will give a certain amount of storage space that companies or individuals can use as they wish. They then access the space with a unique and secure username and password on any web-enabled device connected to the Internet. A few cloud services that have become popular in the last few years include Dropbox, SugarSync, and Google Drive.
If you decide to cloud commute, you’ll quickly recognize some definite advantages. You won’t have to deal with traffic, you’ll save money on gas and food and your productivity won’t be interrupted by constant visits from coworkers or meetings that distract you from your tasks. Studies by different companies show that “teleworkers have a 35 to 40 percent increase in productivity.”
However, you’ll also meet some disadvantages if you choose to cloud commute. To some, these are merely minor setbacks and kinks that can be worked out over time and with greater utilization of available technology like video chats, instant messaging, email and remote meeting services.
But to others, these disadvantages may prove too detrimental to their productivity, their advancement in a company or field or damaging to their intrapersonal relationships at work. A few disadvantages to consider are:
- Problems with communication
Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it can also make the brain forget. Even if they don’t mean to, you’ll notice that, as a cloud commuter, your in-office coworkers may forget to invite you to drinks after work or to dinner over the weekend.
You’ll miss out on the office gossip and information about your coworkers’ lives. These personal relationships often lead to professional connections and information about the office – “such as staff promotions and transfers.”
- Problems with motivation (or lack thereof)
It’s true that cloud commuters are generally more productive than their commuter counterparts. However, some cloud commuters may struggle with self-starting “without the boss looming nearby.” This may be especially true if the cloud commuter’s work is repetitive, and lacks creativity.
However, for cloud commuters, the opposite may also be true. “Self-stopping,” if you will, when home and the office are one, may be difficult. Cloud commuters may find it difficult to stop answering emails, taking calls and finishing tasks.
- Problems with career advancement
Your boss won’t be hovering to see if you’re completing your tasks. However, (s)he also won’t be there to witness your accomplishments – your go-get-‘em attitude, your devotion to completing your tasks on time and so on. So, you may see your promotion opportunities and performance reviews become a little stagnate or lackluster.
To alleviate this problem to some degree, some cloud commuters choose a hybrid approach. They might work from home a few days and in the office on other days. They may stick to the office during a big collaborative project and make an effort to visit and check in periodically.
Alexis Caffrey is a freelance writer with a focus on technology, new media, and design. In a former life she was a graphic designer based out of New York, NY. As a freelancer, she works from home and makes use of the cloud every day. You can reach Alex via her email.
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