May 2, 2018 by Ed Kennedy
Travelling as a Remote Worker? Bring an Extra Laptop!
Travelling with a laptop is great for a remote worker. You have the freedom of movement a remote career allows you, and all you need to work is a sleek piece of metal with a screen and keys. Then something goes wrong.
A perfect afternoon you’d planned, working on client blogs with your feet in the pool. Finished. That beautiful evening you envisioned, watching the sunset at the beach while coding. Over. Oh and if your laptop plays up while you’re on a weekend trip out of town? Oh man, that’s really bad. If your deadline is urgent you may need to commandeer some local wildlife to get back to the city.
There’s a longstanding debate surrounding laptop reliability. Especially in comparison to a desktop computer. Everyone can agree the more you move a device, the greater the risk it gets damaged. Even if you don’t have a major episode like dropping your laptop down a flight of stairs, all those little bumps it encounters in day to day travelling can add up.
This is something no manufacturer is immune from. While some will say Apple laptops last longer than PC, even if this is now the case it appears clear historically it has not been. And ultimately laptops as a whole have a pretty high failure rate.
Not all of these issues will be major failures (and desktops have their issues too) but however you look at it this is a problem when working remotely. If your laptop fails you may have no other way to get online. Especially if you don’t have an internet cafe remotely close by.
Laptop failure isn’t just a pain in the butt, it’s also a professional issue. There’s a basic deal between every remote worker and their client. The client doesn’t care where you are, what computer you use, or how you go about doing the work – but you must get the work done. Nobody cares if you trade a cubicle desk for an ancient tree trunk in the jungle if you deliver.
That is why a laptop failure is such a problem. It gives rise to three difficult questions:
- How much delay will be caused by you waiting for the laptop to be repaired?
- Will this create a ‘knock on’ effect that costs me more time and money from other clients?
- How could you let this happen in the first place?
The second question may seem tough, but it’s pretty straightforward in the remote world. It’s a continuation of the dynamic above: we don’t need you to work in-person because we trust you to deliver even when you’re out of sight. Fail to deliver? That’s bad news.
Building a good reputation in remote work takes time, and depends on reliability at its foundation.
As well as two laptops being a good piece of insurance, they’re a creative aid too. For remote workers who regularly work a variety of roles (such as dual roles as a copywriter and digital marketer, or a journalist and web developer), two laptops can be ideal.
You can use one laptop principally for writing work, the other for visual, or programming work. This is particularly useful if you’re getting into the serious business of using multiple operating systems or virtual machines. You can theoretically use just one laptop for that, but it can be a real pain to actually do so.
Many people also feel it’s useful for productivity. It is very easy to get lost in your laptop at the end of an adventurous day. You have photos to upload, social media posts to do, and maybe even a melodramatic review or two to write for that cool bar you visited.
…what you do off the clock in your private life is a matter for you, and this writer wishes you well doing it!
But from a professional perspective, a laptop where happy snaps are just one click away and Facebook is always open can be distracting. That’s why many remote workers actually operate on two computers whether they are travelling or not. One for work, one for fun.
Beyond this, there’s even the potential to get a dual monitor setup going for those times when you’ve got a project that needs multiple windows. The extra screen can be an invaluable piece of digital real estate in such situations.
It’s Not Just a Remote Work Policy
Remote work has a lot going for it. But the two laptops policy is not confined to it alone. For people who are students, maintain a regular 9-5 office job, or run their own business, a backup can still be useful. Sure, usually if your laptop fails you’ll be able to access another computer – but sometimes you can get caught in a ‘perfect storm’ moment.
Late for university and your main laptop isn’t charged. A big presentation at work and your charger has gone walkabouts. An urgent deadline and for some reason both your laptop and desktop won’t connect to the internet at home. Situations like this recommend a backup.
Chart Your Own Course
While two laptops have been put forward as the gold standard here, it’s important to keep in mind some flexibility exists. If you want to travel with your laptop and a tablet that has a keyboard add-on? Good luck to you! If you can bring along two devices that give you the best of both worlds then that’s a winner.
With up to five billion mobile phones expected to be in circulation by 2019, the growth in smartphone ownership comes in complement to their versatility. If most of your remote work involves voice calling and social media over actually typing, you could potentially use your smartphone as a substitute.
It is just also important to think carefully about this choice. OK, a tablet with a keyboard might be fine for short periods of time, but what about an all-day coding session? If you’ve a tablet or even a smartphone that can be a real substitute, cool. But otherwise go for two laptops. It may be a bit heavier to carry while travelling, but if something goes wrong you’ll be grateful you have a backup.
Ed Kennedy is a journalist, ghostwriter, and web developer from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via email@example.com on Skype or LinkedIn.