Having a good old rant about my dire, yet fortunately temporary, WiFi access yesterday I realised how crucial wireless access is to our working lives, especially if you’re a mobile worker.
Responding to my woes on Twitter Adrian McNeece argued that WiFi’s rapidly becoming an essential utility like power or water. I’d argue that it’s even more fundamental, at least to the mobile worker. I can work without a drink or a loo break for several hours, and my Mac keeps power for around three, but I’m hopping on and off the web, email and Twitter numerous times throughout the day. And when I don’t have full web access I feel disconnected from the real world – there’s only so much you can do through an ageing BlackBerry.
Talking to other mobile workers, it’s clear that we plan our day around both hotdesks and hotspots. Spend the morning at a client’s office and hang around for an hour or so afterwards on a free desk using their guest WiFi, then off to Starbucks for lunch (free benchdesk and WiFi) followed by another client meeting, and then perhaps dropping into to something like @centralworking, the fabulous drop-in office space off Tottenham Court Road to have coffee with a colleague and print out some documents, and of course use the free WiFi. It’s only the commute home, with its often random web access, that proves the most disconnected time of the day.
Herman Miller’s Mark Catchlove rightly said that remote working loses its appeal when technology fails us. It also shows quite how vulnerable and out-on-a-limb mobile workers can be without the solid support of the workplace behind them.