BIG QUESTI ON
Can you actually get anything done on the bus, train or plane? Seven designers and developers share their experiences
Our experts share their insights on how they cope with working on the go
Rob Fenech Freelance web designer robfenech.co.uk
I rarely work whilst travelling. I’m usually connected to so many CDNs that not having stable and consistent Wi-Fi can really mess with my workflow. Also, being a primarily front-end developer, I like to have a few screens at any one time so I can quickly see what things look like on various devices; it’s almost impossible for me to get into a good groove when I’m moving between desktop views on my Macbook Pro. For those reasons, I find it particularly difficult to work when I’m on the move.
Antonius Marie Hogebrandt Developer, Angry Creative angrycreative.se
It depends a lot on how I’m travelling. I prefer to go by train, since they’re more comfortable and roomier than both buses and cars (and cheaper and more accessible than planes). The key things I need for working are a table and good Wi-Fi, either via the train’s own service or via my phone. Most of my work involves using a virtual machine on my laptop, so while I still need some way to connect to the various services at work, I can work well anywhere.
John Taylor Freelance digital designer johntayloronline.co.uk
I often work in Manchester and it’s impossible to work on public transport whilst travelling to and from the city centre during rush hour, although it can lend itself to doing research like reading, listening to podcasts and watching videos. On quieter journeys, I sometimes do admin work like correspondence, bookkeeping and invoicing but this is rare. I can’t imagine trying to do any serious design or dev work whilst travelling, unless it was something simple like an amendment or minor update. There are too many distractions and the problems caused by overcrowding are not conducive to an effective working environment.
Inayaili de León Persson Lead web designer, Canonical yaili.com
I have RSI so I can’t (or shouldn’t!) do laptop-based work on public transport. Because of that, I use the time I spend travelling listening to podcasts and articles. I follow lots of both work and non-work-related podcasts and I tend to listen to the former while commuting and on work trips. I also use Instapaper’s textto-speech feature on my iPhone so I don’t hurt my neck reading on my phone. It’s made me appreciate how important it is to have well-written semantic markup when creating content online!
Michael Vestergaard Creative developer and interaction designer iliketoplay.dk
I always feel great when I get work done on the train or at the airport because it’s like my time wasn’t wasted. But it can be a challenge. I normally plan ahead specific animations, prototypes or code snippets I need for new or ongoing projects. These might be micro interactions, text and image transitions or even drone formations, such as our most recent launch for Verity Studios. This kind of work is easier to pick up after a distraction or a longer break and distractions such as noise, slow Wi-Fi, small screen and so on aren’t such a big deal.
Ben Read Web developer, Zopa deliciousreverie.co.uk
I sometimes work during my 90-minute commute from Hertfordshire to London Bridge. I’m currently working on a project that ties in many different services to one single static site using Gatsby.js. I carry a backup battery pack and typically use data tethering from my phone but it’s tricky when you’re pulling data from an API and suddenly the train goes into a tunnel. I’ve run out of data twice this month because I forgot to disconnect the tether, then later ran ‘npm install’. When you’ve got over 300 dependencies to download that can hurt your allowance. I should probably invest in an unlimited data plan.
Sally L ait Digital transformation consultant sallylait.com
It’s about tailoring your work to your situation. If I know I’m going have a patchy connection, I’ll save up writing tasks, use it as distraction-free time to read or learn something new. It’s important to set yourself up right and download what you need in advance. Also embrace the change of scenery; being in different situations can work wonders and give you a bit more energy. Final tip: make sure it’s all optional. It’s very stressful to have to work and not be able to but nice to have it as an option.