Office vs. Cloudworking?

Looking into many different opinions on cloud working(english: cloud computing).

So, how do you experience home office?” I asked my father recently on the phone. In a picturesque bavarian village, in an old yellow house with pinegreen wooden window shutters, in a flat with a labyrinth of small rooms, is a desk — my fathers workspace. An adjustable-height desk, an ergonomic office chair, a docking station and an external monitor for his laptop and enough space to sort papers and files — this is where he gets his work done. I can imagine him sitting (or standing) there, emailing, skyping with his co-workers — connected to the world from home. 
So when I asked him how he experienced this kind of work, he said that it has advantages and disadvantages, but for his specific situation it is the best solution. That he doesn’t have to move to a big city to another town or region and allows him to be there for my Oma, help in house and garden. He can be flexible in scheduling his workhours — take a break when he needs it and catch up later when he is more productive. Keeping regular hours and being motivated can occasionally be a challenge, especially when that five minute email to schedule a meeting for the refugee work ends up taking 45 minutes out of the middle of his day, and… well you get the idea. Staying concentrated in these matters can be difficult. Of course, personalities should be taken in account: some may be more organised and can control their tasks better, whilst others need more breaks and variety to keep themselves motivated and productive.

It’s good having all your documents in a shared space — in a cloud- and there are enough tools to help you collaborate with your colleagues. The value of face to face meetings once or twice a year to get to know other team members ‘in real life’ should not be underestimated.

Definitions

When I started writing this entry, I thought about this: is there a difference between the two terms home-office and cloudworking?

How to describe cloudworking? Let’s go to the origin of this term when blogger and writer Venkatesh Rao took part in a contest to replace the word telecommuter with cloudworking.

“Rao descibes a cloudworker as: Someone who uses on-demand technology and collaboration tools, such as unified communications, to work anywhere and anytime, and uses the resulting freedom to enable a my-size-fits-me career path and lifestyle.”[2]
And home office? The Cambridge Dictionary simply puts it:
“Home office(noun) is a room or area in someone’s home that they use to work at job.”

Cloudworking can happen from anywhere — whether at home, in the train, in a café. Whereas home office is by definition at home. So, home office isn’t obligational if you want to be a cloudworker.

And now lets think about the advantages and disadvantages of cloudworking in contrast to working in a standard office work environment — which is better?

Advantages of Homeoffice or Cloudworking

  1. Working at home is better for the environment

Seeing as you don’t need to use a car to get to work, you are definitely doing something good for the environment if you work at home.

2. You have less work-relationship problems

3. Working alone is more productive

“Latest studies on open work spaces and group brainstorming suggest that most people are more productive when they work alone.” -Francisco Sáez [3]

4. Flexible Work-lifestyle-balance

If you need a break, you can take a break. If you have to be there for your daughter, because she broke her arm while playing hockey— you can take a day off and reschedule work in exchange for another day. You can start to work early one day and maybe decide to work late another. You need a new environment for better motivation? You can sit in your favorite café and be more productive anywhere. Or go explore a new country to get inspired and work there.

Disadvantages of Homeoffice or Cloudworking

  1. Less innovation and collaboration

This sentence wraps it up quite neatly:

Yahoo’s (YHOO) new CEO, Marissa Mayer, 
famously shut down the company’s telecommuting arrangements this winter. 
In an April speech, she acknowledged that “people are more productive when they’re alone,” but also claimed “they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.” [1]

2. Steady work and flowing boundaries

It could be difficult to do work periodic. Depending on the personality of the cloudworker — you might need people around you who are also working to get into the work atmosphere. On the other hand, it might be difficult to separate the work from your surrounding — your home. It could be distracting to have your private life so close to your work. Keeping boundaries between work and free time could be difficult too.

Interesting thoughts

But the working-from-home vs. working-from-work debate “kind of misses the big issue,” says Alan Gregerman, a business consultant and author of the forthcoming book, The Necessity of Strangers. “Both of these approaches kind of miss the notion that we can be most successful when we connect with more people. [There’s] a lot that’s cool about collaboration — [the thinking behind work-from-work policies — but if employees] don’t have enough fresh ideas to collaborate around, they kind of miss the point,” he says. “Our companies need to encourage us to regularly get off our butts and explore the world around us.” Organizations need new ideas, after all. “We’re not as likely to get those new ideas if we simply hang out at the office or work from home.” [1]

I believe cloudworking is not for everyone. Depending on what you need and where you thrive the best, it is best for you to find out for yourself what is good for your situation. Both working in an office and working at home have advantages and disadvantages, and other thoughts like that of Alan Gregerman point out mutual problems that should be taken into consideration.

[1] http://fortune.com/2013/07/22/home-vs-office-where-should-you-work/

[2] Retrieved from http://cloudworker.org/about/

[3] https://www.quora.com/Are-people-more-productive-when-they-work-alone-or-in-groups?share=1

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