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There’s remote working, and then there are the truly ‘out there’ mobile scenarios

It’s (finally) starting to get (sort of) warmer. Time to consider the limits of teleworking — and then push them as far as you can.


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I am a freelance writer. I am also someone’s Mommy. Both of those things mean that I do my work in a variety of locations and situations, sometimes by choice and sometimes by chance.

I have researched and/or written articles on planes, trains and automobiles as well as from buses, airports, subway trains, coffee shops and restaurants. I’ve similarly turned the waiting rooms of my doctor, dentist and ophthalmologist into writing dens. (Helpful hint: try to finish working on your computer before they put those pupil-dilating drops in your eyes. That stuff lasts for hours.)

I’m pretty sure I’m the only parent in Toronto who considers waiting room WiFi access a deal breaker when looking for a pediatrician. (That’s me, #MotherOfTheYear.)

When I interviewed an Ottawa CEO about how his gamification software is used in corporate IT training, I’m sure he had no idea I was listening and taking laptop notes from the back room of my son’s gymnastics centre. I’ve also filed a story from my son’s schoolyard and edited another one from a dock on the Mira River in Nova Scotia.

Am I pushing the limits (and geographic boundaries) of mobile connectivity and productivity? Absolutely, and I’m not the only one. Cisco Webex surveyed 500 small business owners in the U.S. a few years ago, asking them which locations they had used outside the office to take part in conference calls and videoconferencing. Among the answers…

The car: 27%

A family function: 17%

While running errands: 13%

At an activity for their child: 2%

For remote work spots that are really out there (both literally and figuratively), take a look at an InterCall survey released last year. After it asked 500 full-time employees to name the “strangest places” they’ve ever taken conference calls, here’s how InterCall ranked the most bizarre responses.

  1. truck stop bathroom
  2. McDonald’s playspace
  3. closet at a friend’s house party
  4. the beach (“It was a video call so I kept my tablet up so that my bikini didn’t show,” one respondent explained.)
  5. behind a church during a wedding rehearsal
  6. the racetrack
  7. “chasing my dog down the street” (Yes, that’s a direct quote.)
  8. Disney World
  9. clothing store fitting room

These highly unusual locations are (usually) one-offs that people resort to only in extraordinary situations. For others, however, using mobile technology to work in extraordinarily remote locations is a crucial part of their job.

Dr. Alexander Kumar spent a year working with 12 other scientists at Concordia, an Antarctic research station surrounded in all directions by nothing but ice for 1,000 km. Besides enduring months of 24-hour darkness and temperatures that plummeted to -80 C (that’s -99 C with the wind chill), he also noted the psychological impact of working in a place that is physically isolated from the outside world yet virtually connected to it via phone, email, Internet and video calls.

“A fellow crew member recently described to me how he felt ‘dead’ and ‘not real’,” Kumar told the BBC. “When he went on Facebook it was as if his previous life was continuing whilst his empty body continued on here in the Antarctic wasteland.” Working in Antarctica is clearly not as fun as videoconferencing from the beach.

Kumar’s research was meant to simulate what it would be like for scientists to work on Mars one day. Connecting with your corporate headquarters from Mars would be even tougher than communicating from Antarctica, however. According to scientists from the Mars One project, it would take between three and 22 minutes for digital data to reach earth from Mars, “so a phone call would not be practical.” And you thought that tiny audio delay on your last conference call was annoying…

I’m having some fun with this blog post, of course. In all seriousness, I do hope that as the weather gets warmer, you’ll be able to use mobile and cloud-based technology like UCaaS to fit in your own type of fun while still getting some work done.

Image via Death To The Stock Photo

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