Over the last decade, ‘remote work’ as a Google search term has been gradually climbing, and has shot up in the last few years. As more companies go international, and tech makes physical distance less of a barrier, working remotely is something everyone will likely encounter at some point in their careers. Benny Ou, principal consultant at Matchbox Solutions, predominantly works remotely. Over the years, He’s figured out what to pack in an ‘on-the-go’, remote work backpack, so that he’s ready with everything he needs to work effectively while remote.
In this article, Benny shares what he packs in his remote-ready backpack, and gives some tips on how you can do the same.
Benny has been working remotely for a number of years, and knows that sometimes he needs to work from another city for a day, or work while he’s travelling. For times like these, it really helps to be prepared, so that when you need to work remotely – or, if you already do, when you need to work ‘on-the-go’ – you maintain your optimum workflow and productivity.
To achieve that, Benny has a remote-ready backpack that he keeps packed. It has everything he needs to work remotely, so that he can simply pick it up and go, and set up his remote office from anywhere.
Here’s his advice for how to pack your own remote-ready backpack:
Working remotely generally requires some kind of portable electronic device from which you can work effectively. Although it doesn’t have to be a laptop, making it lightweight, transportable, and something that you can work from productively is common advice – a phone, for example, although nifty for quick emails, isn’t ideal for complicated project management.
Benny only has his laptop, which he needs to work from every day. To make his remote-ready backpack as grab-and-go as he can, Benny just leaves a laptop-sized space in his bag. That way, when he needs to travel at a moment’s notice, he can slip it in, pick up his backpack, and go. You could also have a spare laptop that you keep packed; that way, you need only grab your bag when remote work calls!
If working remotely is a reaction to situation (it’s too noisy, you need to find better WiFi, you have an impromptu meeting far away), chargers are something you’ll probably forget to pack.
Benny sometimes has to work from different countries, and so he over prepares to make sure he never gets caught out by not having the correct charger. He keeps international plug points, USB adaptor plugs, and extra charging cables for his phone and his laptop that he can leave in his backpack. That way, it’s always there, and he doesn’t have to worry about which plugs and chargers to take with him when he travels.
His advice here is to keep a spare set of all the chargers you need in your backpack, so that you don’t have to put extra mindshare into packing these later. You’ll also be well set up for whatever charging points you have to work from at your ‘remote office’.
Free WiFi is generally easy to find, but while in transit or when WiFi is scarce, hotspotting from a cellphone is the only other way to keep internet connectivity up.
Benny tries to keep a spare cell phone in his backpack, or simply ready for when he needs to go. If he’s in the Uber or at the airport, WiFi isn’t always readily available. Hotspotting lets him keep up with admin and – depending on what kind of work he needs to do – Benny can even work from his phone to send a quick email, or make a few notes. Keeping a phone handy means there’s always an easy way to hotspot your laptop or tablet devices.
Tip: Benny’s pro-tip here is to mirror your productivity apps across all of your devices: “I categorise my apps on my phone by actions - ‘Learn’, ‘Work’, ‘Socialise’, etc. - and I make sure I use the same folders, in the exact same places, on all of my devices.” This means Benny doesn’t have to context-switch when using a different cell phone, and helps him maintain his workflow and productivity. He also orders his folders by priority, from top left to bottom right - his top two are ‘Work’ and ‘Play’ (priorities?)
A change of clothes
You may need to stay over in your remote office, and a fresh change of clothes can help you with your productivity mindset: Changing into new clothes feels fresher, and makes you more confident when having in-person meetings, but getting changed for work in the morning – even if you’re working remotely – can mark the start of your day. Similarly, changing out of those clothes at the end of the day can mark when you finish!
Tip: Benny tries to pack light, and not overthink what the weather might be like. An easy tip he uses here is to not pack for every weather scenario; rather, pack he packs for the season, and repacks his backpack when the season changes. That way, he doesn’t have to have summer and winter clothes all stuffed into his remote-ready backpack at once!
Staying active while working remotely can prevent cabin fever, and helps you stick to your rhythms and exercise routines. For productivity, these are useful ways to keep up the energy and brain power.
Running is the lightest thing to pack for, and your running shoes will take up the most space in your backpack. However, Benny also says that you can pack what you need for a home gym session. This doesn’t need any special clothing, simply something you can sweat in. Home gym exercise is something you can do in the park, and you can even keep a print-out of a home gym routine in your backpack to use when you exercise.
Hygiene is really important to maintain when trying to keep a healthy work rhythm, and toiletries are not everyone’s priority when thinking about packing a productive remote work backpack.
However, Benny makes sure he packs a toothbrush, some toothpaste, some floss, some deodorant, and a hotel bottle-sized shampoo and body wash. These are enough for whatever ‘emergency’ remote situation he finds himself in.
Tip: Benny’s pro-tip for packing light is when your home toothpaste tube is ¾ empty, roll up the remainder and pack that into your remote-ready backpack. Not having a full tube of toothpaste will save on space!
It’s hard to predict what food and snacks will be available when working remotely. The mindshare required to find lunch or snacks while working remotely can break one’s rhythm and workflow. Having some basic snacks handy makes it easier to stay productive.
Benny likes to pack dried foods that don’t perish or go off quickly. These could include nuts, dried fruit, crackers, and rice cakes. He also keeps a stock of FutureLife sachets handy, which he’s found are great meal replacements with all the vitamins and minerals he needs to keep healthy.
Tip: His main advice here is to stick to non-fresh foods, and make a point of renewing these every quarter to make sure they don’t go past their sell-by date. You can always set a reminder on your cell phone for 3 months from when you pack your snack, so that you don’t have to remember when next you need to check!
Other useful advice: Don’t walk and work!
Benny moves around a lot, and knows that working remotely often means you’re working on-the-go, between meetings and destinations. Working while travelling, however, can be risky, so it’s really important to be smart about how you do it.
Benny says that he often works on his phone while walking - AirPods make it really easy to multitask. However, it nearly meant he caused an accident once: “I was looking down, walking and working on my phone, and a runner running at full pace came around the corner – I could’ve really hurt myself and them.”
Tip: As much as possible, rather wait until you reach your destination to work. Benny’ advice is, if you’re afraid of forgetting things while you’re on the move, use the “Hey Siri” function on iOS devices to set a reminder for when you reach your destination. You could say: “Hey Siri, remind me when I get to Seattle coffee, Cavendish, to call Phumelelo about invoicing!” That way, you can set reminders for stuff you need to get done, and do it when you’ve safely arrived at your ‘remote office’!
What would you pack in your remote-ready backpack? Let us know in the comments!