I think the answer is yes, but there is a but. You need to be realistic with your goals. I’ve wasted hours, I’ve had hideous conference calls and I’ve cursed out loud at dropped connections but this all means I have learned a few golden rules for getting stuff done while getting around! So let me save you a little pain and share.
1. There really is no point trying to dial into any kind of conference call when you’re in a noisy place. Just don’t, Its horrible for all involved. Plan ahead think about where you’ll be and if you need to dial in get yourself somewhere quiet.
2. Speaking of somewhere quiet, thats probably not your nearest coffee shop. Those fancy coffee machines are noisy and they will absolutely ramp up the volume just when you’re about to hit ‘un-mute’.
My top picks are:
- If you’re in a town, a restaurant between service times (2:30 – 4ish usually) can be a good bolt hole just make sure you order a drink and leave a generous tip!
- Same goes for hotel lobbies so head for the biggest hotel around and grab a corner in the usually vast lobby and the only thing to disturb you will be the merest hint of Musak (unless of course you’re unlucky and a massive tour party arrives!)
- In a train station? Your options may well be limited. The actual waiting room is often the best port of call, it’s usually bleak and drafty but for that very reason everyone else will be in the cosy, but noisy bars and cafes.
- On the train already? – make your apologies and don’t do it!
- Or at an airport? If you know in advance you’re going to work then get yourself into an airport lounge. If you aren’t eligible as a frequent flyer, most airports will have pay-to-use lounges and most have dedicated work areas. Book on-line for around £20 and you can relax with minimal background noise and a perhaps a cheeky glass of wine.
- Lounge, not an option? Head for the boarding gates area and look for a screen with no upcoming flights or one that’s just closed. It’s usually much quieter than the main concourse.
3. Need to get online? No matter where you have mobile data. Whereas free WiFi may tempt you into a coffee chain, it can be so unreliable and isn’t worth the overpriced coffee. Take control and get yourself on a decent mobile package and tether.
4. Headphones, headphones, headphones. Pop a decent pair in every bag or pocket and you’ll never have to put your finger in your other ear as you hopelessly strain to hear again!
5. It’s an obvious one but whatever device you’re using; carry your power cable. Here is where those coffee shops do score some points, most will have power points you can use. Once you’re plugged in you’re not going anywhere. “Can I have another hazelnut latte? Oh and maybe I’ll grab a slice of cake”. It’s a win-win!
Now when you’re actually on the move, whether by rail or air, my general rule is if you’re going to work, work off-line. Trying to stay connected on most rail journeys will break your will to live, if not your heart. Let people know you’re travelling and get stuck into that research you want to read or make a start on that report you’ve been putting off. It’s the same story in the air, unreliable connections mean offline is the way to go. And when that lovely announcer tells you to check your seat pocket, DO IT! Oh yes, I’ve learned that lesson too!
I have to admit the evolution of in-air, at-sea and under-ground wifi makes me a little sad, I enjoyed being genuinely out of reach for just a brief moment in time. One of the constants about work travel is that it inevitably means horribly early alarm calls or long jet-lag fuelled nights. Would it really be so bad if we planned ahead, put on the out of office and read a really great book? I promise the world wont stop and who knows a few unplugged hours might even lead to a better more productive you once you reach your destination – go on give it a try.
What are your tips for working on the go?