Thank you for all the lovely feedback on our article on homeworking last week. As promised I am following up now with some background on some of the gear and services that help to make the dream a reality and enable the lifestyle, at least in part, of a ‘digital nomad’.
The first thing I would argue if you want to be able to work from anywhere is a laptop computer or mac, and you need to train yourself to use the touchpad. If you are using a desktop you will never be truly mobile, but if your laptop is tethered to a mouse to control it your options are also limited to something pretty desk-like to roll it around on.
I had depended on a mouse for years, and can only advise absolute cold-turkey if you really want to break the habit: disconnect the rodent and get tapping, stroking and touching. You know it makes sense. You may need to re-enable your touch screen from deep within a controller menu somewhere if it is deactivated, and if you find your cursor jumps around the screen when you work, it’s because your wrist is banging on the touchscreen and being registered as a tap – download a handy free utility called Touchfreeze, which temporarily deactivates the touchscreen as soon as you start typing – lifesaver!
What about actual devices? Well, I believe that now more than ever, this is very much a function of personal taste and budget. So many different systems do different things – it doesn’t matter whether you prefer Android or mac or Windows, or whether you can see need for a 10 inch tablet or a mini tablet or a big phone or a little phone… Even in the traditional workplace the trend towards ‘bring your own device’ is well advanced, and the big software developers know this and design for all the major platforms and equipment. All I will say is that if you want to be more location independent in the modern online world, you need at least one mobile or portable gadget that will get you online and accessible to your messaging and social networks.
For many communications you can do a great deal worse than Skype of course, and get an inbound number from any country you like as well – we have written about Skype extensively in the past, and you can do a great deal with it for free, the paid additions such as an inbound number and voicemail are very reasonably priced as well, and even premium options such as group videoconferencing are extremely competitive. Remember to invest in a decent USB headset, so that your clients don’t think you are calling them from a mobile phone sometime in 1994. And Skype is also a very secure way to transfer files to another person another (assuming of course that both parties are using a securely password protected account)
The big change that is the move to cloud computing has enabled collaborations across continents, timezones, or in our domestic case a small shared home-office, a matter of great simplicity. One of the easiest ways to share files and resources securely is a facility called Dropbox, which acts as a shared drive in the cloud. If you haven’t got an account, you can sign up via this link – http://db.tt/uqemOfo – and we both get extra free space! The free account is plenty for most work related file sharing and storage, I have a paid pro account because I also use it to securely back up all my personal media and other files as well. The magic of Dropbox is that you can install and synchronise it across all your devices – so that if you are using your iPad whilst out at a meeting, or your phone on a train, you can pull up the files you need (whenever your internet connection is up to it of course, which admittedly you can’t always take for granted in Spain) – you can of course synch down critical files so they are locally available
Being reachable at all times is of course essential to remote working, and not offering a different level of service expectation to your more traditionally working colleagues or competitors.
Pay attention to your phone settings, make sure your voip/Skype number forwards to your mobile if you are going to be on the road, that your email is reachable on your mobile, and so on. You have to work harder at this than people who tend to work in one place all the time, and manage expectations accordingly. That bit is as important as accessibility, incidentally – don’t think just because you are working in a remote capacity you have to be available 24-7. Your officeworking colleague would put an ‘out of office’ message on if they were in a meeting all afternoon, be OK with taking the occasional day off sick, and wouldn’t expect clients to call them at midnight. Depending on what time midnight actually is for YOUR clients of course you have to be realistic, but just because you appreciate the immense privilege of nomadic lifestyle-focussed working, doesn’t mean you have to be a professional doormat who never looks up from the screen to see the palm trees swaying in the breeze.
Published in Costa Blanca News, 09/02/13