Survival Guide: Working outdoors

If you live in London, I've got some good news. The Olympics are coming and the entire London transport system is likely to collapse in on itself in a spectacular mess that will leave hundreds, thousands of people queuing up in hot, squalid tunnels. Or paying through the nose for the right to experience traffic congestion. Or packed into red, double-decker sardine cans.

That might not sound like good news admittedly, but the flip side is that many employers are empowering their teams to work from remotely just so they don't have to listen to the same excuse every day. That means you'll be able to work wherever you want for a large portion of the British summer - see, good news!

The bad news of course is that it's a British summer, so between the weather and the traffic, making the most of this opportunity isn't going to be simple...

Park Life

The first thing you'll need if you want to make the most of this opportunity is a decent idea of what the weather is going to be like. Getting stuck in the rain is bad enough when you're out for a picnic, let alone when you're accountable for your office laptop - so don't just settle for glancing at the Metro or the BBC website first thing in the morning. The weather can always change.

Instead, the best solution is to grab a weather app for your phone, which will let you see the forecast as soon as you notice clouds starting to seed overhead. The Weather Channel app is particularly good and comes in both ad-supported and premium versions on Android and iOS.

Checking the weather is no good unless you can actually get to where you want to go. TFL has some recommendations about what the congestion is likely to be like during the Olympic period, but it doesn't hurt to have that info when you're out and about either. Grab London Transport for iOS or London Transport Live for Android.

Now all you need to do is pack everything you'll need. Much of this is pretty obvious - suntan cream and money for sandwiches should be the first considerations, but it's probably best to forego the picnic blanket. If you're really committed to working in the park then a deck chair is the best way to approach it, as otherwise your back will start to ache from hunching over your laptop.

Bear in mind that, while it's tempting to see the chance to work outdoors as a glorified day off, not everyone will see it that way. Even if you're definitely swapping your laptop for a drinks cooler and don't plan to do anything with your days of sunshine, keep your phone on and in signal range. If a colleague or supervisor rings, you need to take that call. A good quality solar charger should ensure you never run out of battery, hopefully.

Dark glasses might be a good idea too, just in case anyone else from the office has a similar idea...

If the parks start to get incredibly busy though, you might want to take some basic security measures to deter bag-snatchers. A Kensington lock is the best way to keep your computer safe if your laptop supports it, letting you fasten the plastic chassis to anything nearby, such as the chair you're sat on.

Mobile phones, on the other hand, are harder to guard but easier to protect if the worst does happen. Apps such as F-Secure's Mobile Security will easily let you either track or remotely wipe your phone if it is stolen. In the case of the iPhone, the ability to remotely nuke your handset is baked into iOS, and thanks to iCloud, you can get all your precious data back in the blink of an eye – assuming you have it setup properly.

As anyone who's ever had their laptop stolen will attest to though, it's the loss of personal data that matters more than the physical hardware. Working in the Cloud is therefore the safest way to get things done if your 3G dongle can handle the bandwidth speedily and affordably. Microsoft's Office 365 or Google Docs should let you work as normal unless you require access to bespoke software. Make sure you remember to bring a privacy screen for your laptop if you're handling particularly sensitive data too.

Where the hearth is

This being England though, working in the park isn't always going to be a viable option for very long. It always rains sooner or later and it's only occasionally that the rare pockets of sunshine last long enough to merit a stroll in the park in the first place. It's here that working in your garden comes into its own - there's less travelling involved and nobody will raise their eyebrows if you decide to have a glass or two of Pimms with lunch.

Aside from the greater variety of drinks, working in the garden does offer a few genuine advantages over working a park. It's safer, for starters and the fact that you'll be hooking up to your home Wi-Fi means it'll be cheaper and faster too.

Most critically, venturing out into the garden means you won't have to worry about your laptop battery dying as you can always plug in or bring an extension cable out with you. True, you can always carry a spare laptop battery to the park - but the added weight and typically sizeable price tags are good reasons to resist. Personally, our experience of working in the park has been that we're always dashing to the nearest Starbucks to recharge within a few hours - especially when we've been using 3G dongles.

One important area where both the garden and the park overlap though is videoconferencing. While using webcams to stay in touch with the rest of the office is vitally important when you're out of the office, it's also important to manage how your colleagues perceive you. There's nothing wrong with letting your boss see you when you're in the house, but if you dial in to an important meeting and you're the only one shirtless and in the sunshine? It doesn't exactly leave a good impression.

Besides, you don't want to give everyone the same idea, do you? London's parks are busy enough as it is!

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