I’m a big fan of nature and one of the first things I thought when I got my first “work from home” job was, “I’m no longer tethered to an office!” For some, this means scoping out your favorite coffee shop. For others, it means working from the comfort of your own home where it’s quiet and secure. For me, it means I have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. This also means I have the freedom to work from some of the more remote places near me. Before I could start working in this new amazing way, I had to first consider how I could start working that way, where I could work, and finally, how could I make working away from the office a better experience.
What Does “Remote Remote” Mean?
Simply put, working “remote remote” means from a place that is not normally conducive to the “office job” and in my case, typically a natural setting of some sort. Imagine, instead of sitting in your office at home listening to your white noise generator producing the calming noise of a babbling brook, that you could be working next to an actual babbling brook! For others, it may mean ghost towns, national parks, other countries, or any place where utilities may be scarce.
How Can I Start Working Remote Remote?
When you first start off… keep in mind that “remote remote” literally means utilities may be scarce. A little bit of planning and preparedness goes a long way. Below are some lists of things that you may need to consider when you go out to work. I’ve done my best to order them in such a way that the most important is toward the top and some of the less important are at the bottom and may not be an issue at all based your preferences or the type of outing.
What Are My Limiting Utilities?
The first thing you need to think about are the necessities to keep yourself alive and able to work. Typically these are:
This is first on my list because regardless how short the outing, you must have a source of internet service to be able to work remotely most of the time. Since I do Web Development by trade, this is my lifeline as it is how I communicate with my team and is required to do any work. Typically this is your cell phone, so it’s imperative to have a decent data plan if you plan to do this often. I average between 1 GB to 3 GB of data for an 8 hour day of video conferences, database downloads, and VM provisioning. You can definitely control how much you use in a day with a little planning and exploration of settings in the programs you use.
Your computer and internet will only go as long as you have the power to power them. So take inventory of how long your phone works tethering and your laptop can run on battery under load. This will determine how long you can stay out, or the type of power supplies you will need to find/carry with you. I have some equipment that may help you later in this post. It may help to get a computer that has decent battery life. Also, consider getting an extra battery or two for both your phone and your laptop.
Water / Food
This is mainly a concern if you are going to be out for extended periods (longer than a couple of hours). Always be sure to take a water bottle with you, and I find taking a sandwich, beef jerky, or other easily carried food is more than enough. When you plan for multi-day trips though, this can be a bigger concern than the former two items. Most of all… just be smart.
What are my comforts?
Additionally, consider things that make you happy but may not be things that you “need” to work. These are some of the things you get inside and you may not even think about until you are without them.
- Air Conditioning / Heating / Dryness
This is at the top because even if it should be implied… be smart about where you are setting up, the supplies you take with you, and the rules of being wherever you are. For example:
- Setting up in the middle of bear country with a backpack full of food may not be the best idea.
- If the weather calls for a thunderstorm or tornadoes. Don’t risk it… stay home.
- Consider crime rates when choosing a location. Is your chosen location a safe a place for flashing a laptop?
- The cliff view looks awesome, but that On Cam view for your coworkers isn’t worth it.
The takeaways are:
- Be mindful of your surroundings. Scope them out ahead of time if possible.
- Watch the weather. Plan for the conditions of the day.
- Don’t put yourself in danger, for any reason.
Air Conditioning / Heating / Dryness
I’ve taken climate conditions for granted more times than I can count. Climate and weather issues tie into safety as well as just plain comfort level. If it’s going to be hot, be sure to take extra water with you. If you plan your location, you might even be able to bring along a fan. Taking a small shelter like an umbrella is awesome, but never beats a tree with some good airflow. Trees do not keep you from sunburning! Closed enclosures such as tents are not recommended in hot weather for daytime use.
If it’s going to be cold, wear layers. Get some gloves with removable fingertips so that you can cover them up when you aren’t typing and you can take them off when you are. Wear dark colors and stay out of the wind. A wooded area with a nice clearing away from water is best on days like these. For that matter, don’t feel ashamed of setting up in your car on any of these weather conditions if you are comfortable there.
Always make sure to watch the weather. Computers are not conducive to being wet. Keep in mind where you are going, if there are streams or bodies of water around and if it’s going to rain or rained recently. You work in a dry location at home or in the office; this is not true outside and you cannot control the humidity. Humidity and condensation become issues in the cold weather as well since cold electronics becoming warm can actually form condensation.
Park benches just aren’t made for working… Just saying. Between the hard, sometimes grooved surface hurting your tailbone, and it either being scorching hot or cold… it just never works out well. Your car has decent seating most of the time so don’t count that out. However, most of the time, you will want to take your seating with you. Make sure you get something that light, comfortable and preferably lets you put your feet up. Nothing is worse than having to lug heavy equipment then having to pack it up so that you can run to the bathroom or something. I’ve got some recommendations toward the bottom of this piece.
Take note of the bathrooms near you or if you are going to have to dig latrines. Heck, if neither park bathrooms nor going in nature sound good to you, plot out the best convenience stores near you. Just keep in mind that coffee you had this morning has to go somewhere. Don’t take for granted how easy it is to get up from your office desk and go to your bathroom. Keep in mind that this may take time as well… so plan your day accordingly.
Coffee / Snacks
At home, I have a snack drawer. When I’m out… that’s not easily accessible. I can always pack something in my backpack and take a thermos, but I have to first think of it. I also have to remember I’m lugging it back out if it’s somewhere that doesn’t have accessible trash cans. Sometimes, it’s just not worth it, but your mileage may vary. It also depends on how long you are going to be out, or if you are going to be near any accessible sources of food like a food truck. I don’t just work in the woods, “remote remote” sometimes actually means an urban park.
What Are Courtesies To My Coworkers / Clients I Should Consider?
Lastly, consider how your outing is going to affect your coworkers and clients. It’s important to think about others when choosing your location. Think about stuff like:
- Noise level (cars, animals, wind, boats, planes, etc)
- Signal quality (a slow or unreliable signal makes conferencing experience bad for both parties)
- Visual Cleanliness (surroundings and yourself)
Wind is your enemy during a call. We’ve all been on that phone call where the other person is outside and the wind drowns out half of what they say… not to mention your extra bass Bose headset just blasted your eardrums with the head splitting sound of turbulence. Don’t be that person. There are many ways to combat wind noise, the most effective of which is to not be in the wind. If you’re having a meeting, move to your car or behind a tree. If you are willing to throw money at the situation, get yourself a wind canceling headset.
Again, as I’ve said before, be mindful of your surroundings. This isn’t just for your safety but for courtesy as well. Are there boats going by on the lake? Maybe don’t take your meeting on the lake. Are there roosters constantly making noise in the background? Consider moving back to the car for the meeting. Are there lowriders going by blasting music because school is out? Maybe tweak your hours next time you come to this location. Is it deer season and there is hunting going on? Maybe actually pack it up for the day because of safety more than because of the noise!
I mentioned before a little planning goes a long way. Your internet signal is your lifeblood when working remote. It may happen that you got this one favorite place, but you checked it out and you just don’t get more than 2 bars. Consider saving that special place for a day without meetings. It’s almost as disruptive to have a member of the meeting who misses out on portions of the conversation and/or is cutting out in the conversation, as it is to have excess noise. If you have a weak signal, consider mapping the area with an app that maps cell signal or buying equipment that can help out with this situation which I’ll be sure to mention later on.
Remember, you are a professional. As such, your workspace should always be clean. And so should you! When planning out the location you want to work, check to see if it’s typically clean. Your backdrop speaks volumes about the location. Use it to impress and awe, not disgust. You should enjoy your location too!
Additionally, if you are going to be out and about for several days (or having to trek through some rough areas), make sure you have a way to appear clean. There have been times where I just had to make sure and bring a cap with me because there was just no way to get my hair under control after spending the night in a tent in the woods.
How do I Find a Location?
Keeping the above factors into mind, consider how long you want to be out. Google the location. Look at the satellite and reviews for the location and take note of all the amenities that a location like it may have. Drive out to the location and scope it out. Make sure you do this with either enough time to spare to find an alternative place or at a time when you aren’t in danger of alienating your coworkers. Here are some places I started out:
- Coffee shops, restaurants, bars
- City parks, state parks, camp grounds
- Rural locations, walking trails, the middle of nowhere
- The car
Coffee Shops, Restaurants, and Bars
Locations like these are the training wheels of “remote remote” working. We’ve all done it. We’ve all gone to Starbucks to get out of the house. Here you have all the utilities provided the other 100 people working there aren’t already using all the outlets. Typically, you have free wifi. You have most of your comforts taken care of. You may feel obligated to spend a fortune since it’s just so easy to keep the drinks coming — especially since you are borrowing the establishment. Don’t forget to be courteous here; there a bunch of tools online to find noise levels busy times.
Libraries typically allow you to get out of the house and still have most of the luxuries of being in the house, minus the ability to keep snacks. If you ask, they typically provide closed offices where you can hold meetings as well. This is both a courtesy to the other library goers as well as your meeting mates. You may have to get a membership to use the facility, but you are supporting a good cause.
City Parks, State Parks, and Campgrounds
Parks and campgrounds are more my speed. I love being outside with fresh air and sun. Parks and campgrounds are all usually easily accessible and have various levels of utilities that will allow you to choose how long you want to stay. You suffer on the comforts typically unless you are seasoned enough to bring your own.
Commercial campgrounds may have passable wifi, clean restrooms, showers, and your very own personal space. The downsides to commercial campgrounds are typically the noise and types of clientele. It’s like “make-believe nature” if you can even call it that most of the time. My opinion is they are good in a pinch for daytime, but awesome to stay for overnight, especially if you haven’t had a shower recently.
City Parks are easily accessible and are amazing for 1 day stays. Part of this is because it’s typically very easy to go to the park, stay for a while, go some place to eat, and head back home because they are within a reasonable commute of your home. Some have campgrounds, making them an available option for multiple day stays. Most don’t have wifi but you can usually find power, restrooms, and water. City parks come in many flavors from the fishing and camping style to the urban stroll style.
With each of the terrains, comes pros and cons. My favorite parks typically have a pavilion with picnic tables, walking trail, lake, and public bathrooms. The pavilion typically means there are outlets. Bathrooms are a definite plus as that means you usually have water as well. Just make sure and bring your favorite folding chair.
State Parks (and some National Parks) are all about the campsites. You can have multiple day stays. They typically have powered camping locations so that you can charge your batteries when you need to. You can go hike out away from your campground and set up down some walking trails or on the beach of the lake. Most even have showers and bathrooms. The challenge is that they are typically very remote and cell signal can suffer from all the trees and landscape. These locations make for some very awesome conversation and “wow factor”. You also have to haul in all your food, water, shelter, and comforts, which could be a bummer. It really depends on how “remote” you want to be.
Rural Locations, Walking Trails, the Middle of Nowhere
The middle of nowhere is where I love to work. For those who work in technology and homestead, this is the ideal remote working location. The pros are the beauty, the quiet, and nature. The cons are that middle of nowhere literally doesn’t have any of the things I pointed to on my lists above. This means you have to bring it all. This is where equipment and techniques come in handy. But, man, the thrill of working next to an actual babbling brook in your dream location may be worth it all! If you are going to go through the trouble, bring extra batteries, cell booster, sunscreen, food, water, a comfy seat and stay for the day.
This is sometimes a necessary skill when working “remote remote”. Your vehicle is the spare battery and charger that you don’t think about. Additionally, it’s very conducive to being an office on wheels. It’s good practice for those emergency times when you are on a road trip and are called in. The only thing you miss in your car is the comforts of the bathroom if you plan ahead, but that’s even typically easily rectified. Your car is out of the wind and noise typically and it’s always my backup when I’m out at the park. So push the seat back, plug into your inverter, run your heater when you’re cold and work from your car!
What Are Some Gadgets That Make Remote Work Easier?
When I work remote, I don’t always take everything I own for remote work with me, but I do have a variety of gadgets for different situations. Here’s a quick list of the things I keep on hand and most of which will fit in the trunk of my car and are able to carry in one trip to wherever I’m hiking into.
- AT&T family plan with 20GB of data
- Verizon pay-as-you-go hotspot backup
- weBoost Drive 4G-X cellbooster
- ChargeTech 27000mAh Battery Pack with 85W built in Inverter
- Car Inverter
- Extra phone batteries
- Touch of Eco Solar Charging Backpack (on a sunny day charges my S8 in 4 hours)
- Lenovo T470 (9 active hours of battery life)
After taking a look at some of my equipment, learning about some of the locations that you can choose to work from, and the essentials on what to consider when working “remote remote,” you will find that a lot of it is common sense stuff. It’s literally taking the time to plan and consider the surroundings you plan to work in that make or break your experience. After doing it a while though, you will find that saying, “All you need is your cell phone and laptop to work.” is pretty much true. It’s just to what level you want to continue to work, in what environment, and how comfortable that really adds on all the extra things to consider. As my profile says, I hope to see yall out there on the shore of Lake Ray Hubbard one of these days.