Running out of batteries

The evidence is out there that sitting too much is bad for our health, and even worse, too much sitting is "killing us", and so with our best interests in mind, we have been asked to get up and move around. But that does mean that those of us who use computers or tablets or our smart phones as a platform for work become power hungry. This is not an easy problem to solve sometimes.  I'm looking for evidence that when businesses design or buy things like buildings or mobile technology, there is a decent understanding of just how much this influences people's patterns of work.

Often those of us who are professionally mobile as workers, consultants and the like, are hard pressed to find a power point when needed. You might have noticed there's a trend towards quietly removing them in public coffee shops such as Starbucks.  I think one of the problems Starbucks were experiencing was that people would come in and stay most of the day and not buy enough coffee. There are people who have made arrangements with the owners of their favourite coffee shops that as long as they buy coffees with sufficient frequency, they are welcome to sit and welcome to plug in, but that doesn't mean all of their other clientele follow the same rules. People even blog where the best coffee-powerpoint combinations are. I've taken to going to small restaurants in the slow periods and having a meal.

There is another trend to make up for this. If you haven't seen the vending machines you can buy a device to fit your iPhone or other mobile to get that much-needed power boost, you soon will. Much like you would buy a snack if hungry after hopping off the plane or bus.  Another option I've seen in an airport in the UAE was a pay-to-recharge station near the seating in the airport lounge and better yet, in the street at a 'charge bar' .

Each time I'm involved in a workplace design which seems to have too few power points, I try and negotiate a few extras, perhaps under the front edge of seating or perhaps as a power bay in some nook somewhere.  In theory, designers shouldn't need encouragement to install them in buildings where there are formal mobile work patterns such as activity based work (ABW) but sometimes it's little things like the height or placement they get wrong. I spoke with the manager of the Virgin guest lounge in Sydney recently when I discovered that you could only fit the Apple rechargers at either end of the lounge and not in the middle because of the way the power points were set into the work tables. Or the walls. I've had the same thing happen on planes, happy that there is power, unhappy that I can't use it. I just switch off and read a book.

Now I don't think that batteries are particularly interesting, but I am aware of just how much influence they have on my ability to work quickly and effectively as I move between different locations.  Innovations in the performance of our mobile devices and battery consumption goes will often heard first in the magazines of organisations such as the IEEE, not necessarily information that people from procurement will have when they choose what to buy for mobile work. So while we wait for battery performance to finally match our mobile needs, we become expert in spotting the humble, free power plug tucked away on the side of pillars, behind sofas and next to appliances - and hope for a better mobile future!