Meet Mike, the Semi-Nomadic Engineer

I love working remotely, whether for work, blogging or preparing a talk, nothing beats sitting at a coffee shop sipping a freshly made coffee. With wireless technology I can do pretty much everything I would in the office or at home while I’m out and about. I can make or receive calls on my mobile or on Skype, I can check my emails, I can design subdivisions in 12D, I can project manage jobs, review drawings, prepare presentations and talks and manage the workflow of my team.

Engineering wirelessly cafe computer design laptop manageGenerally I find that my clarity of thought is improved in a neutral space such as a coffee shop, away from the office where everyone else’s work is competing for your attention. Being at my desk forces me to deal with (or at least acknowledge), other peoples issues as they bring them to me, whether urgent or not. This breaks concentration and workflow significantly, I’ve turned off all incoming mail notifications on my office computer for that very reason, if it were time critical they would have called me.

Some would say that a coffee shop is no better, there are noises, staff and people talking, and you can’t just get up and leave your stuff to go to the toilet or for a walk. But consistently, I’ve noticed increased productivity on certain tasks outside of the office.

I’m not alone in this, there are a growing army of Bedouin workers, freed from the need for a cubical space to call their own. In fact I recently stumbled across a great new blog aimed at helping people make this transition or improve their experience, through products, techniques and tips….

Web Worker Daily:

After nearly two decades of working in an office, I recently decided to strike out on my own. You might have read about it. And almost overnight, the proverbial cubicle walls vanished, and I became part of a growing number of folks who work from cars, home offices, or just about anywhere.

Broadband, as I have written in the past, is freeing us from the geographic restrictions. Will this trend continue to gain momentum? Hard to say, but early indicators show that office is where the laptop is.


And I would have to agree; equipped with little more than a laptop, hardware lock for my design software, my space pen, hipster PDA, mobile phone and travel mug, I can work anywhere that has a wireless or networked internet connection. My favourite spot to work in Newcastle is the YWAM run Crown International Cafe, Crown Street, Newcastle, which gives free wireless INTERNET connection with a purchase. The staff are friendly, the food is good, and the coffee is great.

Some weeks about 10% or more of my work is done remote from the office, with email communication, report writing, project management and design review forming the largest part of this work. Sometimes I bring my hardware lock for 12D along as well and knock up some subdivision designs while I’m out and about. Skype is my friend too, with super cheap calls to landlines in a convenient interface.

I’d love to increase my percentage out of the office to around 40%, and can see that for a lot of the work I do, productivity would most certainly increase.

What about you, where do you work, and what tools would make working remotely easier for you?

Technorati : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

One reply on “Meet Mike, the Semi-Nomadic Engineer”