An increase in fuel prices and the continuation of the economic crisis have contributed to a higher number of businesspeople choosing to telecommute as well as conduct meetings via Web, video, and teleconferencing, according to two recent surveys. The surging popularity of the telecommuter has even spurred a new moniker -- the "cloudworker."When gasoline prices began skyrocketing, more and more people took a second look at their laptops and realized that with some clever use of technology, they could just as easily work from home rather than pump $80 into their SUV once or twice a week. And even though gas prices have fallen to a bit more reasonable level, the trend of telecommuting isn't tapering off. In addition, because airline prices are still notoriously high -- not to mention the frequency of canceled flights and out-of-nowhere airline bankruptcies lead to frustrated passengers -- teleconferencing is also on the rise for small and midsize businesses.
Small and medium businesses worldwide will spend as much as $2.6 billion on conferencing solutions -- including audio, Web, and videoconferencing -- by 2012, up from $1.8 billion in 2006, according to a study by Access Markets International Partners, Inc. Other findings from the report include:
- The Web-conferencing segment will grow from $388 million to almost $693 million by 2012.
- The videoconferencing segment will grow from less than $100 million in 2006 to $164 million by 2012.
- North American small and midsize businesses are the leading consumers of these solutions. They spent $965 million in 2007 -- 50 percent of worldwide spending -- and that will rise to $1.3 billion by 2012.
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- More than one-third of employees were traveling less on business over the past year, with 42 percent saying their corporate travel had been cut in half.
- 40 percent spent more time in teleconferences.
- 30 percent have increased the amount of time they telecommute by working from home an average of 1.4 days per week.
- Half of the respondents who work from home at least one day a week feel their productivity increases when telecommuting compared with working at the office.
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And perhaps thinking "telecommuter" is outdated, Plantronics solicited suggestions from people to rename the term. The winning term "cloudworker" is defined as "somebody 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. The metaphor of the cloud extends well beyond cloud computing and software as a service applications to include work environments, distributed teams, and communication tools." A Google search revealing 4,580 hits for "cloudworker" leads me to think that it's, indeed, catching on -- or Plantronics is just savvy at search engine marketing.
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