We are living in a digital age. Whether it’s for two hours or two days, a power outage will send your productivity into a nosedive. While the occasional “snow day” may seem like a welcome break, most of us can’t afford to halt our work whenever Mother Nature takes out our power supply.
Do you have a personal preparedness plan for power outages? The following suggestions can help you to get ready for weather-related outages so that interruptions to your power won’t completely disrupt your work.
What to Do Before a Power Outage
Invest in a few external USB battery packs for your devices. Keep an eye out for discounts during the year: Amazon runs frequent promotions on portable power packs. Besides power outages, these units are great for travel, working outdoors, conferences, or whenever you’re working in a location with limited or no access to outlets.
Schedule routine checks of battery pack capacity. You don’t want to reach for your backup power source during an outage only to discover that it’s unusable. There are several factors that can cause a battery pack to lose charging capacity, such as product quality (beware of cheap chargers — they can quickly lose the ability to hold a charge and/or may damage your device), temperature and high number of charge cycles (most have a lifespan of 500 charge cycles). To find one that suits your needs, check out this recent review of 40 USB battery packs in The Wirecutter.
Keep your power outage supplies (standard dry cell batteries, USB battery packs, flashlights and LED lamps in one place) in one place, such as a cabinet, bin, box or drawer. Make sure that it’s easy to access in the dark (e.g., not at the back of a high shelf in a closet or in a storage unit in the building’s basement).
Set up your iPad or tablet as a backup work device. Tablets have longer battery lives than laptops, which make them the optimal go-to devices for times when you’re without power. Prep your tablet beforehand by loading it with apps that mirror or integrate with the applications you use on your desktop. If your work requires a lot of typing, make sure that you have a decent Bluetooth keyboard.
Store your work in the cloud rather than on your hard drive. In addition to being able to access your documents from your laptop, tablet or smartphone, working in the cloud will ensure that your work is automatically saved in the event of a sudden power outage. Many popular cloud-based storage applications offer a limited amount of free space (e.g., Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud, Box). If you’re running short on space, at least make sure that what you’re currently working on is stored in the cloud during severe weather or anytime that you’re at risk of losing power.
Does a mobile hotspot device make sense for you? If your a frequent traveler to areas where WiFi is sketchy, it may be a useful device to keep on hand. However, for the occasional power outage, tethering your laptop or tablet to your smartphone can be a practical option. Be sure to check with your carrier beforehand to see if your plan allows tethering. If your plan allows you to roll over unused data, build up your backup data as an emergency surplus for bad weather months.
On high-risk, severe weather days, always check all of your devices to ensure that they are fully charged.
What to Do During an Outage
Let your team know that your power is out, as well as what documents, files and applications you have access to, and what you don’t. Ask them to limit team communications to urgent and high-priority messages to prevent unnecessarily draining the batteries on your devices.
Shift gears. If you can’t access the files or applications you need to complete the tasks scheduled for the day, reorganize your to-do list. Move the tasks can be completed using the devices that you have available to the top of the list. Don’t let an outage completely disrupt your schedule. Focus on the work that you CAN complete and keep moving forward.
Use tethering and mobile hotspots wisely. Don’t remain connected while you work — just connect when you need to check email, access a site or send a file. Get on, get what you need, get off. Be sure to track your data usage so that you don’t incur additional fees and penalties for going over your data limit. Keep in mind that it’s not just about the data usage, you also want to preserve the battery life of all of your devices in the event that it takes longer than anticipated to restore power to your area.
Social media apps can provide you with up-to-date information about where the outage is and which businesses are affected. That can help you to decide whether to stay put and wait it out, or if trekking over to one of your alternate workspaces is worthwhile. In many cases, you can get quicker, more accurate details on the extent of the outage from your local community than the utilities provider.
If you decide to go to an Internet cafe or other location to work, take along your USB battery packs and other smaller devices so that you can top off the charge. Of course, cafe etiquette comes into play here: Don’t monopolize outlets to charge multiple devices, especially if it’s more crowded than usual due to the outage. Order food and beverages to compensate the business for the use of their space, power and Internet access, and always tip your server well.
Finally, always unplug your computer, printer, servers and other home-office equipment to prevent damage in case of an electrical surge when the power comes back on.