Going Mobile: Blessing or Curse?

Wires are annoying. Don’t get us wrong, wires are secure, dependable, at times irreplaceable. But they also shackles, chains holding us to one location. They plug us into a grid, but they limit our freedom, our mobility.

As more and more people shed the incumberances of wires, the benefits of wireless, placeless living and working are becoming more salient. Certainly foremost among the advantages to going mobile is the freedom. A mobile worker can work from a crowded subway station just as well as he or she can work from an office, or from a comfortable sofa.

But lets back up. What does “going mobile” even mean?

Well, for most people it means a change of mindset. Instead of thinking about the world as divided into offices and not-offices, one begins to imagine the office as more of conceptual idea than an actual space. Work can be taken care of in the park, or on the way to the park, or while running from the police (something we’d prefer you didn’t have to experience).

But, more functionally, it means you’re going to need to change your technology. Out goes that old dusty desktop, and in comes a slick smartphone and a lightweight laptop. Most smartphones now allow you to “tether” the internet connection that comes with the phone to other computers, like your laptop. One thing to be aware of: laptops tend to use quite a bit more data than your phone does, so you may be surprised by your first phone bill.

Going mobile also means adopting software that doesn’t limit itself to one computer. We’ve talked quite a bit about “cloud computing,” so see our other articles for more information about Dropbox, Google Drive, and other free services. The advantage to these services is that, if you happen to lose your laptop, or your phone is crushed by a rampaging hippo, you’ll still have all your precious documents. Further, if you plan to follow the current trend of using several different computers (laptop, smartphone, tablet, desktop), your documents will sync up across all of your devices, a very handy trick indeed.

Once all of your information is backed up on the cloud, you’ll have the ability to pick up and leave at the drop of a hat. All you’ll need is a single bag containing a laptop, a phone, and perhaps a small snack (because you can’t eat your computers). If, for some reason, you don’t want a smartphone, you can always just buy an internet stick for your laptop. Mobile internet has improved the point where it can stream video fairly well, so Skyping into a meeting from the middle of the Greenbelt may not be as impossible as it once was.

But what about the disadvantages to having an office that you always carry? Like a turtle, you can’t shed your shell. There are many who like to stick to the office-desktop method of doing business, primarily because they want to be able to leave their work behind when they go home. And it’s true that, when working from anywhere is this easy, it can be difficult to draw the line between, say, a nice family outing and an update on the yearly financials.

It’s a problem that is raised again and again in discussions on the increasing prevalence of smartphones and related tech: how do we separate our work lives from our home lives?

Well, there’s always the power button. The solution many have is to simply shut down their work devices when they are in a home environment — effectively cutting off the business world from them. As with many things, it’s good to use the technology, but equally important to keep the technology from using you.

So, as tech addicts, we continually jump at the latest technology that makes doing business from any place easier. But as humans, we know that we can’t always be connected. And so, for our sanity, we turn the cellphone off before we fire up the barbeque. After all, burgers are tastier when they aren’t covered in melted phone.

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