Business is tough on the road

Business travellers are apparently so desperate for privacy that some of them are working in toilets...

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

These days, technology means that the virtual office has become a reality – thanks to Blackberries, PDAs, laptops and wi-fi, we can get our work done pretty much anywhere. But is that actually a good thing? According to a new survey by office provider Regus, mobile working might get us away from the desk - but it creates all sorts of other problems...

For one thing, it’s not easy finding somewhere decent to work: the survey discovered that mobile professionals are forced to rely on all kinds of weird and wonderful places. Some were obvious, like hotel lobbies and airports. Others were less so: 65% say they’ve worked from busy restaurants, while 51% have worked from bars or pubs (the other 49% may just have been wary about admitting it). And some were downright bizarre: 16% claim that they’ve worked from toilets or public bathrooms. We’ve heard of work/life balance going down the pan, but that’s ridiculous.

Confidentiality is the other big issue. You might think that it’s fine to sit in a café chatting away about the latest developments on your big deal – but you never know who’s listening. According to the survey, over two-thirds of people have eavesdropped on confidential business conversations – and more worryingly, over 10% reckon they’ve been able to use this knowledge for commercial gain (a figure that rises to 17% in London). So beware – in a crowded train carriage, the odds are probably stacked against you...

David Porter, who’s Head of Security and Risk at technology consultant Detica (and no, that’s not the bloke who guards the front door) reckons he’s ear-wigged on all sorts of juicy stuff while on his travels. ‘People seem to slip into a very casual security mindset when using laptops, PDAs and social networking sites. They naively think other people will not be interested or aware of what they are doing, when in reality this could not be further from the truth.’ Particularly in Wales – 77% of those nosy Valley folk claim they regularly listen into other people’s calls.

But it’s not just phone calls you need to worry about. Over a third of mobile workers reckon they’ve caught sight of confidential documents – probably by reading over the shoulder of the person next to them on the train, is our guess. Equally, your own laptop can be a security risk – ne'er-do-wells can read over your shoulder, or even pinch it from your room if you’re not careful (just ask Hazel Blears, the latest hapless Government minister to lose a laptop full of confidential data).

No prizes for guessing Regus's solution to the problem: hire more office space for your staff. Then again, that’s a lot more expensive than a public toilet, even if it probably does smell a lot better...

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime