Mobile tools: Breaking down conventional office walls

Mobile tools: Breaking down conventional office walls

Summary: When mobile tools become an integral part of the work day, it enables setting up a full office no matter where you might be working at the time. The virtual cubicle is wherever you happen to be.


The workplace has become more mobile than ever with the move to laptops, smartphones and even tablets. Those of us who work at home are used to leveraging the mobile tools that keep us working while on the move, even while we are busy working in the home office. When mobile tools become an integral part of the work day, it is liberating as it enables setting up a full office no matter where we might be working at the time. There is no longer a need for an office, as a virtual cubicle can be anywhere you happen to be.

The smartphone plays a big role for most home workers. It has become the office switchboard, backup connectivity method and in some cases a fallback computer. The evolving feature set of smartphones make them powerful computers that can fill in for bigger siblings in a pinch. Often the smartphone becomes the primary communication device, handling email, phone calls, text messaging and even tweeting in this connected world. The mobile hotspot capability of modern phones make them the go-to device for getting laptops online when needed. The phone is no longer just a device to make calls, although they still can.

Laptops have become thinner and lighter making them more portable than the notebooks of old. Just a few years ago notebook computers were so big and heavy that a great deal of justification was required to choose to bring it along for quick trips. That's no longer the case, for today's laptops are so mobile they are easy to throw in the bag, and the improved battery life provided by modern processors keeps them going longer. It's now possible to grab the notebook and go with reasonable expectation it can handle anything you need to do, for pretty much all day.

It is easier than ever to get connected to the web from most anywhere due to the prevalence of WiFi hotspots in most areas. Having the laptop doesn't do much good if it is disconnected, but that's becoming a rarity. When a hotspot is not available, the inclusion of mobile hotspot capability for smartphones is a big plus for mobile professionals. If connectivity is crucial to getting the work done, it's easy to bring the web along and share it with the laptop.

Tablets are beginning to play a role in mobile work, perhaps more than folks expected. Work issues have a habit of cropping up at inconvenient times, and in a pinch tablets can be used to deal with them remotely. It's not ideal but better than heading back to the office unexpectedly to deal with work needs. Tablets are full-featured computers that can handle a lot of work issues in a pinch, and as more folks buy them this is going to be a welcome surprise to many.

The evolution of these mobile tools is having a profound effect in reducing the need for an office to get things done. It is easy to carry a capable office, aka a virtual cubicle, in a gear bag that can be set up in just a few minutes no matter where you are. It is liberating, but it also makes it easy to never be separated from work. That is not a good thing as it is important to step away from business on a regular basis. It is vital to create a distinct boundary between work and play, even though the mobile tool may be in the pocket all the time.

Topics: Mobility, CXO, Hardware, Laptops, Smartphones, Tablets, IT Employment

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  • RE: Mobile tools: Breaking down conventional office walls

    Not as good as it sounds. All this talk of the mobile virtual cube is a sham and only works in certain job functions. The rest of the people need to be at the office in their cubicles. Don't get me wrong, its great if you can work from your home office but a lot of people can't.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Mobile tools: Breaking down conventional office walls

      @Loverock Davidson

      I think even if you can't legitimately work from home, having a more mobile setup (when combined with a collaboration-focused office floorplan) can cause productivity gains. Even in traditionally static disciplines like HR. For reference, that is how we're set up at the company I work for... and we're not a traditional "tech company", we're a 100+ year old real estate firm. (Granted, I work in IT... But HR and Payroll have been some of the big users of virtual cubes and collaboration rooms.)
  • RE: Mobile tools: Breaking down conventional office walls

    I do work from my home and will probably be shopping this year for a tablet. I'm an insurance adjuster and am on the road quite a bit. Since I have to use 3rd party programs that work only with windows, I'll be shopping for something other than an IPad or an android. A tablet would seem to be perfect, especially when I'm outside writing auto estimates. Any suggestions? I know windows based tablets eat up a lot of battery power so I'll be looking for something that has the best battery life available.
    • RE: Mobile tools: Breaking down conventional office walls

      @kvsmith59 it's a convertible notebook that is perfect for what you describe, the ThinkPad x220.
    • RE: Mobile tools: Breaking down conventional office walls

      @kvsmith59 You may also want to look into remote accessing your work computer from a tablet. There are several software packages that can do this, and I have heard positive results from people. One of my co-workers husband's currently does this in his sales role, and he says that it is faster than trying to use the laptop in the field.

      Of course that also assumes that you can put the client on your work computer so that you can access it remotely. A lot of companies would prohibit this type of remote access. But if you get to bring your own computer to the job anyway, this is a possibility.
  • RE: Mobile tools: Breaking down conventional office walls

    What about security? How to preserve the circle of trust with mobile data? 2000 Laptops are stolen or lost veryday in the US, only 2% are recovered and each incident cost an average of 30'000$. The stat for mobile phone are similar and protecting a smart phone is actually virtualy impossible. It is not mobile office but jungle office.
    • RE: Mobile tools: Breaking down conventional office walls

      @a_gautier, see the previous comments about using a tablet as merely a terminal client to access a remote PC. This makes carrying around tablet devices a lot less risky, as there's very little company information stored on them, at the cost of some additional exposure to a terminal server on the company's network.
  • good idea about android

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