Is the Dream of Being a Mobile Worker Really a Nightmare?

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Is the Dream of Being a Mobile Worker Really a Nightmare?

[image via MidCo Systems ]

My friends frequently give me a hard time over my obsession with mobile technology.    Like the rest of the Gear Diary team — and very likely the majority of the site’s readers — I do my best to not only stay up to date but to get a lot of hands on use with various technological gear that help to untether me from the confinement of a desk.   To me that’s the real point of it all:  the freedom to go do what you want, when you want and still be able to take care of your work responsibilities.

In fact, right now as I write this I am sitting on a balcony looking out at the ocean.  Don’t worry, I’m not callous enough to throw in a photo of the view …  yet 😉 .    While moments like this seem to capture the “dream” of being a true mobile worker, there have been plenty of other moments over the past three days that make me wonder whether the idea and freedom of the true mobile worker is actually a nightmare…

OK. You got me.   Here is the view:

Is the Dream of Being a Mobile Worker Really a Nightmare?

Beach view aside, I can tell you I’ve been on four conference calls (two while sitting on the beach) and constantly in touch while on a short “vacation.”   To me, that is pretty nice.    A few calls have been in the 4am range due to where the other party has been located.  That’s fine, too.  I am a coffee drinker, so I just make sure to have a cup or two prior to the calls.  To me, that’s just part of the deal.

I’m regularly behind a desk 12 or more (most often much more) hours a day.   These little breaks are welcome and I do not mind taking calls.  My office line is forwarded to my Google Voice number.  Coupled with Push email on my mobile phones, laptop or netbook in my bag, and a MiFi onhand it is very rare I am completely unreachable.    But here’s the thing…everyone expects an immediate response.

Take this morning.  I was up, had walked the dog (yep, we bring the dog 🙂 ), checked email and was out to run a few errands.   While on the road I received an urgent call from someone I work with.    Unfortunately, this wasn’t a call I could ignore.    I pulled off the road and took the call (the person calling was rather high up the ‘food chain’ and I knew this could be a long conversation, depending on the problem).    At the end of the conversation, I was tasked with making some server side changes due to a request from someone else ….even higher up the food chain.

Instead of  waiting  until I could drive the 20 minutes to get  back to where I was staying, I decided to grab my netbook out of my bag and fire up the MiFi.   I was in a parking lot at the time, and the process to boot up and connect probably took five or so minutes.   I then had to remote into a server and verify settinigs before making changes.  All while sitting in a parking lot in my car.

The entire process, start to finish, probably took 20-30 minutes.   Faster than it would have taken to drive back and take care of the issue.    The problem, though, was that while I was going out of my way to get the job done, I received TWO emails and another call asking WHEN I would be finished.    In less than a half hour!    On a Sunday morning.   Remoting in from my car while on “vacation” no less.  Once I was done, I didn’t get as much as a thank you from the person requesting the change.     I did, though, wonder who they used to contact before I accepted the job…and whether that person was able (or willing) to drop everything to get the job done in such a quick manner.

I’ve  found this to be the same expectation for other workers who are known to be “mobile” and make sure to go above and beyond.    This may very well be part of the problem.  In our 24x7x365 world of always online access, the expectation is that you are always reachable any hour of any day.  Whether or not you are physically in the office.

So what about you?  Is the freedom of mobility becoming a nightmare for you — or have you set up proper expectations and restrictions to safeguard time away from the office?

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*Gear Diary Staff
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