The Great Outdoors (of Computing): Take Your Work Outside

16 May 2024

Anyone else tired of being shackled to a desk between the hours of 9 and 5 on a beautiful day?

More and more lately, I've been wanting to take meetings outside in the fresh air. Sure, I can pop some earbuds in and wander around the neighborhood on my phone, but that's hardly conducive to productive note-taking or interacting with screen shares (not to mention the unnecessary mobile data usage).

The problem with outdoor computing—as most of you probably know—is the damned glare from the sun.

Can't exactly call it working when you can't see the screen to begin with.

So, what is a slowly-lapsing-indoorsman to do?

Brighten Up

Don't get too attached to your brightness settings. Crank that baby up to 11. It won't make much difference (imagine shining a flashlight at a spotlight), but it'll help a lot more than it will hurt.

Go Into the Light

Say goodbye to dark mode. I've tried (believe me, I have tried), but dark mode is nigh impossible to see on a bright day. I promise, though, light mode isn't nearly as blinding in the sun as it is in that cave you call an office.

Seek Some Shade

Unless you're rocking an e-ink laptop display, your screen will never overpower the burning ball of sky fire we call The Sun. Amazon has a bunch of laptop-ready shades for this purpose, but if you'd rather not look like a total dork, just sit under a canopy or something (which will make you less likely to need to wear sunglasses too, which won't help the whole "seeing the screen" problem).

Mind the Leaf Blowers

It's springtime, soon to be summertime, so the gas-powered lawn care cartel is in full force. This carries two problems:

  1. You won't be able to hear anyone in video calls.
  2. Nobody will be able to hear you.

It's hard to solve for #2, but for #1, get yourself a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. You won't have to wear them all the time (that's hardly comfortable), but it's good to have them on hand for when your neighbor decides to mow his lawn for the third time this week.

Anything Else?

These are the things that have worked for me so far, but I'm honestly not entirely satisfied. I haven't solved the problem of power (extension cords, maybe?), nor do I have particularly good wifi coverage in my backyard (solvable); and what if I want to work at a park? That introduces a whole host of new challenges.

Have you tried to do your computery job outside? What worked for you (or what didn't)?