Does it feel like you spend more time in your car than in your office? You're not alone--even if you don't carpool. A recent wide-ranging study by The Dieringer Research Group revealed that almost 21 million Americans work in their automobiles. It's not really surprising when you consider how many of America's 135 million workers have outbound jobs--salespeople, client-services providers and entrepreneurs in particular. Work pressures being what they are, we've long turned on everything from cell phones to laptops to get a little jump on work outside work. We download e-mail, spruce up presentations and, of course, make lots of client calls while we're gridlocked.
ITAC, the Telework Advisory Group for WorldatWork, calls this "embracing telework"--the new way to describe our decades-old love affair with telecommuting. Not only are a third of us working at home these days, but we're also "mobile working" in planes, trains and automobiles. More than 15 million of us can even be found working at parks and other recreational sites from time to time, according to ITAC, whose web address pretty much says it all: www.workingfromanywhere.org .
Whether the prospect of more places to work makes you glad or sad, the direction is clear. The continuous stream of laptops, cell phones and all things portable has left us pretty well outfitted. The only thing missing is a place to plug them in--and I'm not talking about an AC power outlet. Most new cars are equipped with outlets for electronics, and there are plenty of aftermarket add-ons (see " Road Requirements "). The thing that will take mobile working to the next level is a broadband internet onramp--and a wireless one is just around the corner.
Consider the workstyle of 50-year-old yacht broker Berny Coffey, founder of WME Yachts Ltd. in Alexandria Bay, New York. Coffey's office is wherever he parks his car--and it needs to be, because business keeps him traveling to marinas and boat shows six months a year. Coffey actively manages a network of 35 brokers around the world, with annual sales of almost $50 million.
Besides the usual telecomputing quiver, Coffey's key piece of equipment is a WavBoard wireless router from Omniwav Mobile. Easily mounted in a glove compartment or trunk, WavBoard connects Coffey to Verizon Wireless' EV-DO network at 400Kbps or better, and it connects his laptop and printer/copier to the internet over Wi-Fi.
Coffey carries the portable WavBoard into boat shows and marinas, where he often gives prospective buyers continents away a live videocam tour of a yacht while chatting over Skype's toll-free phone service.
"I was in Florida when Hurricane Wilma hit," recounts Coffey, "and my brokers couldn't tell we were without electricity or phones for seven days because I never missed a beat. If my cell phone wouldn't work somewhere, VoIP would."