Mobile tools: Breaking down conventional office walls

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.