Working From Your Wheels: Making Your Car a Mobile Office
Our cars are an essential part of being agile in business – even in today’s hyper-connected digital world.
The value of seeing clients face to face is immeasurable, especially in the start-up days, and we can find ourselves working more from our cars than anywhere else.
So, how do you accommodate working on the go? With a few easy tools and a bit of preparation, you can turn your vehicle into an office on the move, allowing your business to be much more dynamic and increasing productivity by being able to work from anywhere in what were previously unusable pockets of time between meetings and appointments. Here’s how to embrace working on the go (no crazy ‘Pimp My Ride’ style modifications necessary…).
Sort the Power Source
Working on the go boils down to a few essential points, and one of the most important is the power supply. You’re going to need to make sure that you can get charge for your laptop, tablet and mobile phone. Most newer models are being manufactured with USB outlets that you can plug into, but if not, you may need to look at buying the corrector adaptors. USB power adaptors are available at low cost and will power most phones. Laptops can be more of a challenge as they have different power cables and requirements – so make sure you source the correct adaptor for your tech. Alternatively, you can look to have standard outlets retro-fitted to your vehicle, but this is a much more expensive.
Of course, all this charge is coming from your car’s battery, so do be careful not to run the risk of being left stranded by draining it completely. Lots of people invest in Digital Multimeters, which means you can test your car battery on the go and make sure it’s functioning well before any long trips where you will need to make lots of demand on the power source. Make sure that you start the car up around every hour and let the engine run for a few minutes to avoid getting too low on juice.
Access the Net Via Your Smartphone
The good news is that you’re already paying for a smartphone with a data plan, and you can make it work twice as hard for you by tethering that access to your laptop or tablet as well. Your phone can act as a connectivity hotspot, so you don’t have to awkwardly camp out in the nearest Starbucks to send that important email. A solution like PDANet can let you create a mobile hotspot and get online wherever you can get bars – some mobile data providers will also extend this service for a minor monthly fee.
Second Screen from the Driver’s Seat
If you’re doing a task which requires looking at two documents simultaneously, switching back and forth between applications can be a pain. But you can use your tablet to extend the screen on your laptop. Programmes like AirDisplay work by creating a wireless second monitor via an app, and if you have a mobile hotspot, this should be easy to set up.
Get Some Additional Tech
To improve the comfort and flow of your working experience, consider what tech you need and what space you have. Instead of a laptop, could you use a device like the Belkin QODE to provide a laptop-like typing experience via your tablet? Now that all the MS Office and Google applications are available as apps, do you need a full-service computer with you? There are also ‘best of both’ options like the Microsoft Surface that function both as a tablet and a laptop, which may be ideal for those on the go. You can also look to invest in a lap desk, which may make it more comfortable and practical to work from the car.
Shift Your Position
Many of us automatically work from the driver’s seat, but the practical implications of this are limiting, with the steering column always in the way. If you’re considering spending any length of time working from your car, then choose an optimal position such as in the back right of the vehicle. Pull the driver and passenger front seats all the way forward to create more space to stretch out in. Then you can also use the front armrest as a place to put things or to support a tablet screen. If you do prefer to sit in the front, there are trays that attach to your steering wheel – either connecting from the bottom and sitting horizontally to create a ‘shelf’, or attaching to the top and angling down to hold a smartphone or tablet. In the back, you can use a headrest mount to put your tablet at a better height and then use a lap desk to support a keyboard.
Make More of Your Mileage
The majority of us will now use a GPS system to map out our route and get us safely to our destination. But what if the route you drive could be smart – informing you about marketing hotspots or letting you know exactly how much to bill for mileage? An app like MileTrack GPS could be just what you need. You can monitor your routes and analyse them to help see where you’re spending a lot of time and not so much – which can help you understand where to concentrate your marketing activity, and more.
Printing On The Go
If you’re planning to work from your car regularly, ideally you should make sure that you’re signed up to all paperless systems – from digital invoicing via an app, to using a service like Send Anywhere to ping over that client presentation before the meeting. But if you absolutely must use hard copies, you have two choices. Most conventional printers demand far too much power to be able to be used running off a car battery, but there are a few with lower power draws that you can make work from a 12v adaptor in your car, such as the HP DeskJet 3510. If used with a mobile router, you don’t need lines of cabling to connect it up either. The other option is signing up to a remote printing service like Epson Connect or HP ePrint – this will let you print to selected printers remotely using your smartphone, by forwarding your print items to an email address. You can then collect the documents when you reach a printer.
Working on the road is possible these days, and can massively enhance the amount you get done. Give it a try, and you might find a new way to be mobile and still fulfil those client briefs on time!