Does Cloud Computing Create A Bad Work Environment? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
5/28/2008
03:45 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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Does Cloud Computing Create A Bad Work Environment?

I was speaking with some industry people last night and was horrified to learn about the work environment of an acquaintance of mine. Though he has a regular 9 to 5 job, he doesn't get his own cubicle. Rather, he has to sit in a sterile work station that cannot be personalized in any way. Is this the best that cloud computing has to offer?

I was speaking with some industry people last night and was horrified to learn about the work environment of an acquaintance of mine. Though he has a regular 9 to 5 job, he doesn't get his own cubicle. Rather, he has to sit in a sterile work station that cannot be personalized in any way. Is this the best that cloud computing has to offer?I am not going to name the company he works for, but it's a big one, one that champions cloud computing. According to him, every day when he gets to work, he finds an unoccupied work station and sits there to work for the day. He has no laptop, no PC of his own. He simply has access to his company's systems via the work station. And since the work station isn't his, he can't hang pictures, put up a calendar, or make it "his" in any way, shape, or form.

It's hard to fault his employer for this set up on one level. It gets a low-cost solution that allows its employees to access what they need to from any PC. For places such as 24/7 call centers that have a regular rotating staff, an environment such as this make sense. But for a knowledge worker who does public relations?

It seems to me that the human element is being ignored here. At every job I've ever held (even one as a short-order cook when I was in high school), I've had space to call my own. Whether it be a locker, a cubicle, or an office, many people like to make their work spaces more pleasant with pictures of loved ones, decorations, plants, etc. If I had to stare at three gray or beige walls all day, I'd probably go nuts.

Another thing that strikes me is that workers in this situation won't necessarily have consistent work mates. Every day it's a changing scene of who's in which cubicle. (I didn't ask how the company handles phone extensions, though I am sure it uses unified communications to sort it out). Think about how important (or annoying) the people who sit next to you are in your daily work flow. Socialization through close quarters can drive people crazy, but it also can lead to off-the-cuff brainstorming sessions that end up solving problems.

Denying people that opportunity seems to be a mistake, in my eyes.

At the heart of all of this is cloud computing, the technology that lets the workers log in from any work station and have access to the same systems and files. Are efficiency and cost control more important than employee morale?

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