In recent years, telecommuting has become an important element of the American workforce. Since 2005, telecommuting has grown by nearly 80%. And the number of telecommuters in the U.S. is expected to grow another 60% in the next 5 years.
Cloud commuting could be the answer to some of those issues. Utilizing the cloud when working from home can improve communication and efficiency—keeping both employers and employees happy.
So—what exactly is cloud commuting?
What Is Cloud Commuting?
Cloud commuting is a lot like telecommuting. The only difference? Employees rely on the cloud—an online network for storing, sharing, and accessing data—to communicate with coworkers and access files.
Think of the cloud as a device. You can upload data, create documents, and read and edit files—just like you can on your computer. But your files aren’t stored on your individual device. They’re stored in the cloud, so anyone with an Internet connection (and the right credentials) can access them.
The biggest benefit of cloud commuting? Unlike traditional tools like email and hard-drive storage, the cloud allows multiple people to access information—at the same time, anywhere they want, in real-time.
That means you and your boss could collaborate on a project, even if one of you is out of the office. Two (or three, or more) people could read one file at the same time. You could review edits to your work, even as they’re being made.
Some companies use online cloud storage services like Google Drive and Dropbox. Both services offer some storage for free (2 GB for Dropbox, 15 GB for Google Drive), but require payment for larger amounts of data. Companies can also create their own cloud service using intranets and virtual private networks (VPNs).
Who’s Doing It?
Since cloud commuting is relatively new, there aren’t a lot of statistics yet. But you can get some idea of who’s cloud commuting by looking at figures for both telecommuting and cloud service use.
30 million Americans telecommute at least one day a week. Another three million work entirely from home. And even more people would telecommute if they could—79% of American workers would work from home at least part-time if their companies allowed it.
As for cloud services? They’re growing, too.
More than half of U.S. businesses now use cloud computing. Of those businesses, 74% use multiple cloud-based services. Google Drive has around 82 million users, and Dropbox has 50 million—many of them telecommuters.
Who Would Benefit the Most from Cloud Commuting?
Many different people in many professions work from home. But some jobs are better-suited for telecommuting than others. Research shows that productivity goes down about 10% for repetitive, mundane tasks when working at home. But productivity increases—by about 20%—when workers are performing creative tasks at home.
That means that telecommuting is more beneficial for employers and employees in creative fields. Telecommuting also works best for fields that don’t require a lot of face-to-face interaction or hands-on work—including accounting, engineering, graphic design, data entry, computer programming and writing.
What Cloud Commuting Means for Productivity
There’s an ongoing debate about whether or not telecommuting is productive for businesses.
On one hand, it can save on costs for employers and employees—in terms of office space, parking, travel, equipment, supplies and more. Employees who telecommute can be more flexible, experience less distraction and avoid the stress of long commutes.
On the other hand, some employers worry that telecommuting could lead to lower productivity. Communication would be harder and collaboration more difficult. Home offices might not be equipped with the same security and technology as traditional workspaces. And some studies even suggest that telecommuting is bad for employees, leading to longer hours, overworking, and more stress.
Cloud commuting is one way to combat some of these issues. Using cloud services can help telecommuters feel—and work—like they’re right in the office. They can collaborate better with others, share resources and information freely, and communicate more effectively.
Advanced technology is another solution. Employees can make the most of telecommuting by equipping their homes with office-grade technology. Invest in high-quality computers, scanners and phones. Set up a fast, reliable Internet connection that won’t slow you down. With plans like Verizon’s FiOS Internet and Google Fiber, home Internet access can be as fast as in the office.
Do you telecommute or cloud commute? What are your tips and tricks for staying productive while working at home?