In March 2017, violinist Ray Chen was performing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in Brussels when the unthinkable happened–his e string broke in the middle of the third movement. Without a second thought, Chen exchanged violins with the concertmaster and kept on playing.
Violin e strings are made of thin metal wire. It’s not unheard of them to break during a particularly intense performance. And it’s not unheard of for soloists whose e strings break to exchange violins with the concertmaster and keep on playing. In my article Crisis Planning for Savvy Business Leaders, I discuss how at age 14, Midori exchanged violins twice after experiencing two broken e strings in the same performance.
What’s extraordinary about Chen’s performance isn’t his swapping violins. It’s what he did a few seconds later.
Knowing that e strings sometimes break, Chen had an extra e string in his jacket pocket. On the YouTube video, you can watch Chen fling the extra e string to the concertmaster so he could change the string on Chen’s violin. The video doesn’t show what happened next, but I like to imagine that Chen and the concertmaster swapped violins again after the concertmaster had changed Chen’s string.
I had a similar experience this month when I spoke at the Rocket Aid, Zoom Continuing Legal Education conference. Before my panel, the panelists entered a “backstage” area in Zoom for an audio-video check. After everything went well, we were to move into the presentation room.
When I clicked on the link to go into the presentation room five minutes before I was to speak, my browser churned and churned and then timed out. Then, I received that Windows wanted me to update and restart my computer (I said LATER!). Repeated efforts to get into the presentation room yielded the same timing out.
So, like Midori and Chen, I switched instruments, eh computers. I pulled my tablet out of my backpack, started it up, found the link, and entered the presentation room with at least three seconds to spare.
While all of this was going on, I was communicating with my co-presenters to develop a backup plan in case I couldn’t get Zoom to work. Because I showed up on time, the presentation proceeded as planned.
The irony about this is that the presentation was about remote work. Even more ironic, one focus of my talk was about having the backup tools and being nimble so one can continue working no matter what happens.
What is Remote Work?
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced many people to remote work at home. But remote work includes more than working at home.
I first worked remotely in 2004 while I was put on bed rest during pregnancy. And I started working remotely full-time in 2006 when I began a general counsel position with a company on the opposite coast. At first, I worked remotely from a home office set-up with most of the supplies I would have in an actual office–computer, printer, scanner, fax machine, and telephone.
When it came time to travel, whether for work or on family vacations, I created an “office in a backpack” discussed in this article. My backpack office allowed me to take my office on the road.
My work environment was progressive at the time. It was a conversation starter, and I was interviewed for professional publications about my unique work set-up.
Most important, being able to work in a variety of environments has enabled me to be available for clients without sacrificing my family life. Plus, it’s terrific for mental health to work from a balcony overlooking the ocean, a cabin overlooking the mountains, or on my patio enjoying the morning sun and a gentle breeze.
Office in a Backpack
My office in a backpack includes everything I need to do my job without interruption. I selected these items with the following goals:
Mobility, flexibility, and nimbleness. The equipment should be small and light enough that I can carry it in my backpack. And I need to have equipment so I can nimbly adapt to any environment.
Cloud Storage for centralized document access.
Security and Confidentiality.
The contents of my backpack office have changed over time. At first, I had a bulky laptop with power cable, legal pad and pens, printouts of documents I wanted to read, floppy disks for document storage, and an air card. Since then, my backpack has gotten smaller. And I have migrated from a laptop to a tablet, a legal pad and pens to a smartpen and notebook, and printouts of documents and floppy disks to cloud storage.
What’s in My Backpack
Over time, I’ve populated my backpack with the items I’ve found work best for me. Everyone should experiment to figure out what works best for their lifestyle and work needs. The manufacturers and vendors haven’t given me any promotional items and don’t even know I’m writing this article.
Microsoft Surface Pro with a keyboard (but an iPad Pro or lightweight laptop will work also)
Mouse (mine is an Arc Surface mouse, but any Bluetooth without a dongle will do)
Stylus (for tablet or touchscreen laptop)
The type of phone is a personal preference. I continue to use my iPhone 7 because I prefer small phones and fingerprint identification.
Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones with Microphone
Bose QC35 (for a less expensive option, try the Cowin SE7)
Livescribe 3 or Aegir (also check out Neo brands)
Livescribe spiral notebook
All software should be able to sync so that data needs to be input only once. Plus, be sure all software works on every platform you use and has an app for your cell phone. I use:
Law Practice Management Platform that can sync with Office 365 and my accounting system (I user Rocket Matter)
Password manager (I use Dashlane)
Antivirus, Anti-Malware (I use ESET and Malwarebytes)
VPN (I use IP Vanish)
Privacy filter–a thin screen I put over the monitor that prevents people sitting next to me from seeing what’s on my device.
Analog Security–don’t write your passwords down where someone can read them.
Having backups extends beyond having backups of documents. Backups should include redundancies in critical resources (such as Internet and power) and technology. The only backup I don’t carry in my backpack is the laptop, but I have apps so I can access everything on my cell phone in a pinch.
Computer power cord
Charging cables for phone, headphones, and other devices
Audio cable so headphones can be used if they run out of battery
Power strip/extension cord. (Helpful if you can’t get a seat near a power outlet. And if someone else is using the outlet, you can ask them to allow you to plug in your power strip so everyone can share the power.)
USB hub with charging capability
Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS)
Phone battery case
Power Inverter for the car (so I can charge devices and work longer as a passenger in a motor vehicle).
Air Card or MiFi
Laptop and tablet
Headphones and headset (I have a small, over-the-ear Plantronics Bluetooth headset as a backup)
Smartpen Ink and Paper
Batteries of every size
The Future of Remote Work
I now have a private office in a shared workspace. I carry my office in a backpack to and from my office and dock my computer. But I also still work in coffee shops, hotel rooms, and outside in the fresh air.
The coronavirus pandemic will change our lives forever. Not only have employees experienced the freedom of remote work, but businesses now have invested in the technology to make remote work feasible. Right now, we all may be working at home, but as the stay-at-home recommendations are lifted, I predict that having an “office in a backpack” will become the norm, rather than a conversation starter.
© 2020 by Elizabeth A. Whitman
Any references clients and their legal situations have been modified to protect client confidentiality
DISCLAIMER: The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice to any person. No one should take any action regarding the information in this blog without first seeking the advice of an attorney. Neither reading this blog nor communication with Whitman Legal Solutions, LLC or Elizabeth A. Whitman creates an attorney-client relationship. No attorney-client relationship will exist with Whitman Legal Solutions, LLC or any attorney affiliated with it unless a written contract is signed by all parties and any conditions in such contract are satisfied.