Is a Mobile Office Right for You?
Back in January, the Wall Street Journal offered predictions imagining future workspaces that break the standard mold. As more businesses shift practices in response to COVID-19, alternative work arrangements are more important than ever. We may be a long way out from checking in at work via hologram, but a “movable office” may be nearer than you think. Maybe even in your driveway.
Can You Work in Your Car?
Theoretically, if reliable, self-driving cars became the norm, a working commute could follow, too. If drivers don’t need to keep their eyes on the road, there’s no reason why you couldn’t jump-start your day before you arrive at the office. Tech companies and auto companies could join together to design vehicles with comfortable seating, a computer interface for work, and of course fully autonomous driving capability.
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While the self-driving car is futuristic, working in a car doesn’t have to be. Co-workers who carpool may already take advantage of the chance to handle some paperwork or even take an early call when they’re not on driving duty. (Not to mention that employees newly working at home, especially parents, may find that the car is quieter than any room in the house!)
Business travelers may be accustomed to working in the car, too. Over 80% of business trips use a personal vehicle. Professionals traveling together may use travel time to prep for meetings or presentations.
You may come across occasions where working in the car could be convenient. But is your car set up for productivity? A mobile office is only as good as its design, so let’s look at what equipment workers would need to see a car as a viable workspace.
A Movable Office Design
Reading or in some cases making phone calls can work in the car with minimal set-up. Most workers spend the majority of their time working on a computer with Internet connection, though. That’s trickier to manage in a moving vehicle, although not impossible. If you’re engineering a mobile office for future business trips (or a trip around the block), you might be interested in these tech solutions.
A lap desk can elevate a laptop computer for more ergonomic typing and a more level surface than your actual lap. If self-driving cars and mobile offices became the norm, you might see an increase in vehicle laptop mounts, which are already common in police and emergency vehicles. Simple lap desks are available online for about $30-$50.
Internet access is essential for many workers to complete their projects. Some software options enable you to run a virtual router on your laptop, turning your computer into a Wi-Fi hotspot. Or you could purchase a hotspot.
Cell phone signal boosters are another important tech investment, especially for business travelers who cover a lot of ground in the car. Boosting cell reception with tech lets road warriors respond to email and connect with colleagues, even in areas with reduced cellular service.
All your devices need to charge. Power strip inverters for vehicles let you charge your laptop or other devices from the car’s battery. Frequent business travelers and others who need to work from the car a lot should look into what car battery strength they need to support frequent charging.
Once, a car phone was a revolutionary idea. Who knows what the future will hold? A mini fridge, coffee maker, or other appliances that offer office comfort on the go may gain traction along with mobile offices.
How Do You Manage a Mobile Office?
As workplaces evolve, managerial strategy needs to adapt, too. Communication, supervision, and accounting concerns like expense management take extra thought when employees are spread across multiple locations.
Take working hours, for example. Many business travelers qualify for “white-collar exemption,” meaning they’re exempt from FLSA requirements for overtime pay. In other words, in most cases, employers don’t need to worry about counting hours and paying overtime pay when executive, administrative, sales, and computer professionals travel for work. If you’re sending non-exempt employees who need overtime pay, you’ll need to work out a plan ahead of time to balance overtime approval and work requirements. Until we get those self-driving cars, business travelers also need to balance driving time against possible working time as a passenger.
Managing business travel effectively starts with respect, trust, and communication. That’s true whether your employees are checking in from the road, the airport, or their own living room. As the modern workplace continues to take new shape, business travelers and remote workers will continue to find innovative solutions to stay connected.