Since 2007 I’ve been in the lucky position to get out on the road as part of my job and meet with a wide spectrum of businesses, from small Irish start-ups to large multinational and government agencies. It’s something I enjoy doing, but I’m also aware that time lost travelling or waiting between appointments is impossible to recover.
It used to be that when you were on the road you were out of reach; some people still put an out of office message on, letting everyone know when you’ll be looking at your inbox next. This doesn’t need to be the case. Smartphones, tablets, laptops and remote VPN connections can ensure that you stay on top of your day job.
You NEED a smartphone. It lets you keep in touch on the phone, gives full access to your address book and your company’s global address book, lets you manage your email inbox and calendar and, I’ll admit it, comes to the rescue with Google Maps every now and again. There’s no two ways about it: a smartphone is the most powerful tool you have, and it’s always at your fingertips.
After a smartphone it starts getting down to your weapon of choice – are you a light traveller who carries a tablet, or do you prefer a laptop that packs more of a punch? I tend to go with a laptop myself because it allows me to carry out all the tasks I would normally do in the office and the larger, physical keyboard wins hands down for productivity. That said, if you have access to a range of resources on your tablet, perhaps your company is shifting to cloud-based services, then the tablet is a very nice option.
Equally important as the gadgets is your connection back to base. You don’t just need connectivity, you need secure connectivity. Wi-Fi is good but mobile broadband is generally better – you won’t waste time hunting for free W-Fi, or paying through the nose for one hour of service. Most modem VPNs play fine with wireless connections and options also exist to use Hosted VPN or Private APN services to securely access office resources.
Even if you don’t have a USB modem, most smartphones have a “tethering” or “Internet sharing” option. These can typically be found under the settings menu and allow you to turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot that uses the available mobile connection to get you online. Just make sure to check with your provider that tethering is included in your data add-on.
It’s no harm having laptop and phone charger(s) just in case you need them and, depending on your company policy, a car-kit can keep you contactable while on the road.
Finally, I would highly encourage you to get out of the office. Regular meetings with customers keep you in touch with their requirements and lead to stronger relationships. I would also argue that a change of environment does wonders for your creativity.
Do you avoid out-of-office meetings because they cut into your productive time? If you’re already a smartphone user, do you find it helps you keep on top of e-mail when you’re traveling for business?