By Peter Chadha Friday, 22 February 2013

Ten Top Tips: Ways to achieve an 'always-on office'

With smart gadgets and business travel apps, firms can finally realise the dream of the 'always-on' office.

1. Take two phones - Many business travellers suffer from the cost of data downloads. One solution is to take two mobile phones when travelling. One uses a UK SIM and one uses a local (country specific) pay-as-you-go SIM. You can now buy local SIMs in advance of your trip for around £15-30.

2. Invest wisely in hardware - Tablets and ‘hybrid’ smartphones are particularly popular with the business traveller community because of their obvious ‘always-on’ capability and portability. When buying a new laptop look for the lightest possible but don't forget to check the size of the battery charger as it can make a real difference to baggage weight.

3. Upload documents to shared cloud files - It’s possible to upload, share documents and work on amendments by using a cloud system. This allows you and your staff to access and work on that important document that can’t wait until your return. It also saves on the need to carry memory sticks or other portable storage devices.

4. Send a group message - Group messaging apps are increasingly useful in allowing team members to send group SMS messages for alerts, diary scheduling and contact sharing, or for quick message collaboration. Download, set-up and learn your app in good time before your trip.

5. Join in the conversation - Social media tools, particularly those relevant for businesses which exist on a private and secure network, are a great way to stay in the loop with all of the updates and going’s-on whilst away. These corporate tools are becoming increasingly popular amongst Generation Z - or digital natives.

6. Have a virtual meeting - The combination of cloud technology and applications using  a WiFi or 3G connection can allow you to conduct up to a 15-way multi-video conference with team members across the globe, using high quality, streamed video, chat and document exchange.

7. Employ a virtual butler - The development of ‘hands free’ or ‘virtual assistants’ software and apps is pushing new boundaries. Particularly when driving, or where the travel situation makes using a keypad impractical, voice dictation software can be transformative.    

8. Make and connect with new contacts - When it comes to networking, make sure you have downloaded the latest generation of apps to allow you to update your contacts at the touch of a button. Many of them allow devices to photograph business cards and automatically add them to your database.  

9. Control expenses - The drudgery of filling in expenses on your return can now be removed, as a number of management apps allow travellers to instantly update and track expenses while they’re away. These ensure accuracy and include real-time updates of flight or hotel bookings - which can also be monitored or amended by administrators in the office. 

10. Reduce the cost of roaming data - Most phone network providers now send a text as soon as your phone starts searching for a new network (roaming) to inform you of the local charges. Nevertheless, using a smartphone overseas can cost an average $15 per megabyte – a staggering 300 times the cost of domestic data. So, to avoid facing a hefty bill, turn off the automatic data download settings on your UK phone, and use local Wi-Fi hotspots where possible.

Peter Chadha is founder of DrPete Inc Ltd and CEO of Steegle.com 

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