Increasingly, business is moving beyond the walls of the cubicle. With the rise of smartphones, cellular data plans and cloud computing, it now is possible to work from just about anywhere in the world without skipping a beat.
In fact, one of my friends does just that, regularly performing his desk job from exotic locales such as Burma and Thailand. His job isn’t exceedingly telecommute friendly, but he has a mobile travel system well established and it effectively makes him “present” in the office even when he is nowhere near his cubicle (I’m not even sure if he has a cubicle any longer, frankly).
While most of us can’t become a digital nomad to the extent of my friend, there are increasing opportunities for us to work from the road and telecommute on occasion.
To stay as effective on the road as when we are in the office, however, we need to focus on three key elements of our mobile office setup: Resource availability, Internet access, and power management.
The first key is resource availability: We must make sure that we have our full office with us no matter where we go.
This means not having our key files just on a flash drive or laptop hard drive—it means fundamentally moving our computer file system to the cloud so no matter where we are, no what device we are on, we have the files we need every bit as much as when we are in the office.
It means having our communications travel with us in full, too. Not just email, which went mobile long ago, but also our business phone system and even our fax. To bring these along, too, we need to move our business phone to a voice-over-IP (VoIP) system that lets the calls follow us whether we are working from our office, our cell phone or a laptop in a hotel room.
We also need to move our fax to fax-over-IP (FoIP), which does the same for fax—faxes come in by email, and can be sent from our phone, our tablet, or our laptop. This can be done with services such as FaxSIPit, which makes moving to FoIP easy and cloud-based.
With the resources in place, we next need to ensure that we have constant Internet access because this is the lifeblood of business these days.
There are many ways that we can get Internet from the road, including coffee shop Wi-Fi and Ethernet hookups in business centers. But the best way to ensure Internet access in 2014 is through the personal hotspot feature on smartphones. For a small additional fee, most cellular providers will allow a laptop or tablet to piggyback off the data connection of a cell phone. This means that our laptop has Internet anywhere we have cell service, which basically means we are never without Internet or beholden to coffeehouse Wi-Fi.
The third critical component is power management. Anyone who is serious about working from the road needs to pay close attention to power, because the wonders of the mobile worker look a lot less wonderful if the laptop or cell phones being used are out of juice.
The rule of thumb that stands most mobile workers in good stead is to start any trip out into the world with fully-charged devices—and to only use the stored battery power in these devices when an electrical outlet is not available. Even if your laptop has three hours of battery left, don’t lean on the battery in the airport if there is a seat near an electrical outlet. You never know when you will need the juice in your battery, so best to save it.
Effectively power management also means turning down screen brightness to conserve battery, and bringing a spare battery if possible.
If these main considerations are kept in mind, it is easy to stay productive outside of the cubicle. Maybe not easy enough to outsource yourself to Burma, but pretty easy all the same.