When you're online, you're connected to the world. You have access to more information than you know what to do with, you can switch between your cloud-hosted apps seamlessly, and you can send and receive any communications you want.
But what happens when the power goes out? Or when you're stuck somewhere with no internet access?
It's hard to commit to all those productivity resolutions if you can't even access your project management app. That's why finding a way to manage offline productivity is, ironically, our next great challenge as professionals.
Why It's a Problem
Relying on the internet for our daily tasks has, largely, been a good thing. Internet connections have afforded us the ability to communicate with anyone in the world, and access the world's information in the span of a few clicks. However, it's left us with a few residual problems:
- Increasing reliance on cloud apps. We're growing to trust cloud-hosted apps and data now more than ever. Essentially, that means you need to access the web version of an app, rather than a copy of the software on your local device, to use its most important functions. You may also need the internet to access your documents and spreadsheets if they're hosted on a cloud service like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. That means you can rest assured your data is backed up and access your work anywhere, at any time--so long as you have an internet connection. If you're stuck without it, all those files, documents, and project notes are out of your hands.
- The emergence of IoT. Along similar lines, we're seeing enormous development in the internet of things. Depending on the device, these individual technological marvels all depend on an internet connection, a Bluetooth connection, or both to communicate with other devices and relay your data to where it needs to go. If they're unable to function due to an internet outage or similar event, your entire business is jeopardized (at least temporarily).
- Vulnerability points. We also need to consider the sheer number of vulnerability points for most internet connections. You could struggle to get a good connection because of network congestion, or because your device isn't cooperating, or because your router is down. You could also lose internet to a single fiber optic cable being cut, which could happen due to natural disasters, animal activity, or even vandalism. Because there isn't much redundancy in internet provision, all it takes is a single weakness to wipe out your entire access.
The Potential Solutions
So what can we do to improve offline productivity, since we know it can be devastating under the right conditions?
- Offline accessibility. The first step is to prioritize workflow management platforms that allow offline accessibility. There are many different ways to approach this; for example, you could have remote data capturing, which records the progress made by offline workers so it can be publicly recorded when the internet connection returns, or you could have a separate offline version of the app. Either way, your team members will have a way to do their most important work even when the internet disappears.
- Universal internet access. We could also strive to minimize offline time by providing some measure of universal internet access. Some companies depend on 4G networks to serve as mobile hotspots when in a pinch, but even these networks have vulnerabilities.
- Greater redundancy. Building more redundancy into our internet capabilities is also an effective way to reduce downtime, but this is beyond the control of the average professional. Tactics like establishing multiple fiber optic lines and employing the use of a failsafe router could keep your office going strong, even in the wake of an outage.
- Learning to make use of offline time. Finally, we must all learn how to take more control of our offline hours. Too many of us panic and don't know what to do when the internet goes out, but learning to work while disconnected from the internet is an important working skill in the modern world. In fact, disconnecting from the internet can help you build more focus, and get more done (with fewer distractions).
Our internet-connected world is a marvelous one, and one that's been essential to improving our collective productivity, but it's also left us with a handful of vulnerabilities. Learning to compensate for those vulnerabilities is imperative if we want to retain and improve that productivity.