Sunday, October 23, 2011

ATR: Changing the way we work...

I've been working from home off and on, ever since I got my first laptop and a high speed Internet connection. But at the end of the day, digging the laptop out of the computer bag, waiting around for Windows to launch, firing up the VPN, and then launching email is a real drag when you just want to look at one thing. Smartphones, from the Blackberry to the Q9h to the Droid, have made life better in that regard, but they were also limiting in screen size and some functionality. If anything, the smartphone has helped me decide when it is worth my while to crank up the laptop.

After a couple days of really using the iPad, I think things may substantially change for me in terms of getting more Day Job work done at home. Email is instant and much more readable (as long as I have wi-fi). A co-worker pointed out an app that allows me to get VPN access for the iPad and that enables me to get into our document management system at work. There's something I need to play with a bit.

Text entry is still challenging. I've downloaded WritePad, which offers handwriting recognition for notes, but doesn't interface with apps. The faux keyboard is ok, particularly with the stylus, but is still one letter at a time. I want to play with some voice recognition software at some point as well.

So right now, consuming information on the iPad is a winner. Producing information, not so much. When you see a blog post "Written from my iPad", you'll know that I'm on to something. But in the meantime, my plan is to give the iPad a serious workout next week in the office.

So that's the prologue.

I've mused before in this space about how work is changing and where we work is no longer important. My prior post about the two minute commute never really happened. People certainly work from home, but I still have a nice office on the corporate campus and I find myself driving there almost every day. I have a decent enough space at home that is far superior to any home office space that I've had in the past. But the nature of the tools that I have had to use tended to chain me to the home office desk as much as I am chained to the in-office desk. Yes, I have a laptop. But that laptop is very adverse to being disconnected from its docking station and walked out of the office while it is running. It doesn't like me to close the lid when it has been running, and switching from a wired connection to wi-fi is an ordeal. So I tend to go to meetings with a pad of paper and a pen. I switched this year to a notebook in hopes that I'd be able to go back to prior notes more effectively. But now I have three notebooks (so far) for this year. So that doesn't work real well.

Enter the iPad. Portable, instant on, and all that. I may actually come out of my cave at home and socialize with the family once in a while. Up to now, I have tended to carry my smartphones with me only when I'm out of the house or away from the house phone. Otherwise, they sit on my desk at home. So if I went out in the living room to watch TV out there, I tended to be disconnected. But I'd hear one buzz and go see what was going on. The tablet takes that one more step. I'll tend to have it with me and be able to respond to email more effectively. So work will tend to follow me whenever my eyes are open. As I become more proficient with the device, I rather expect that I'll rarely crack open the laptop. Maybe I'll start thinking about moving to a desktop computer again.... nah.

If anything, I may start to reduce the hours that I spend in the office to just the hours when face to face meetings are essential. If the iPad frees me from extra hours spent consuming reports and documents in the office, then that will be a significant plus. so one test that I have in mind is whether or not I can effectively consume and edit large documents on the iPad. If that is the case, then I'll start dealing with those things at the boundaries of the workday -- and from the comfort of my easy chair.

I'll keep you posted on this experiment.

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