Benjamin Robbins, an EMF member, is spending the next year working solely from a single mobile device. Each week he shares his thoughts and experience with us on what it means to be mobile-only.
If you have been in the work-a-day world for a while, i.e. you are older than 35, you can remember a time when you would arrive at work in the morning, do your tasks for the day, and then go home. Even if you did do work at home, it was in a very limited capacity. Perhaps you took some papers home. Worse yet, perhaps you had dial-up internet at home and you had to deal with not only those annoying connection tones, but the painfully slow experience of VPN’ing to the office as well. Thank goodness those days are long-gone.
Gone as well are the old expectations of availability. In its place, there is now a sense of constant reachability. Where there was once some bounded sense of work-hours, I can now be assured that if I send an email out in the evening, it will be read and responded to. I often find that it is one of the last things I look at in the evening and one of the first things I pick up in the AM. Constant contact is quickly becoming the norm.
As of late, I find that the mobile battle cry of anytime, anywhere work has worn out its welcome. The motif has become commonplace and the novelty has faded. This was not something I expected to think and feel about being mobile-only. I thought I would find new ways to do work. I thought I would find new ways to engage. I thought I would become more efficient. I never thought I’d secretly hope the device would get run over by a metro bus. But as the honeymoon period fades, the real work can begin.
So here is the surprising part. I find myself, more than ever, looking to ditch the device. I don’t mean permanently, but rather time to create a break. If I go out to dinner; I leave it at home. If I am out to lunch, I leave the phablet in my jacket (yes – it is June and we still are wearing jackets here in Seattle!). I feel like someone evaluating their monthly household budget who is looking for ways to trim expenses in order to save money; I am looking for places in my normal daily routine to separate myself from the phone.
I have been thinking about how this has transpired. Perhaps, it is because the phone has moved from being a thing of convenience, to the embodiment of work itself. . It is precisely because there is zero distinction between my device and my work capabilities that I find it is a heavy burden to carry. I am also open to the fact that I am unusual in this regard. There almost isn’t a day that goes by, that I don’t get run into downtown from someone staring down at their phone while walking. But somehow I don’t think people are on their devices as much as I am.
Unlike a laptop, my mobile device is always on, almost always connected, and always notifying (interrupting) me with texts, tweets, and tasks. The paradigm shift of mobility means that the ‘computer’ is always ready to go, no setup required. It also means that any buffer between the work world and the personal world has been blurred, if not outright eliminated. Mobility transforms anytime, anywhere from a catchy marketing slogan into the reality of your life.
In the end, I don’t think this is about resigning, I fully intend to carry on with mobile-only. I think this is more about figuring out what anytime, anywhere means in everyday life; in my life. It’s about defining and sticking to the artificial barriers that have to be created between work and home that used to exist naturally. It’s about learning to fully leverage the capabilities that mobility brings in a sustainable manner. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. So perhaps I just need to find the right balance between anytime, anywhere and sometimes nowhere. What do you think?
Benjamin Robbins is currently a Principal at Palador, a firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobility, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter. Mr. Robbins resides in Seattle and blogs regularly at http://www.remotelymobileblog.com