A New Workforce is Brewing

Since 1989, Andy Abramson has been working on the road. He was one of the first virtual account managers in the ad world after his agency equipped him with a fax machine and credit card to work from a small desk in his bedroom.

Today, Abramson still works virtually, relying mainly on Wi-Fi networks in cafés, hotel lobbies, airline clubs, and even wine bars, to run his marketing communications agency, Comunicano, “based” in Del Mar, Calif.

“I’m a global nomad, a road warrior type of executive, who regularly travels and uses all types of technology to get my work done,” said Abramson, who manages a staff of 15 employees, all of whom also work virtually. “My job takes me all over the world, either meeting with clients, or attending conferences and industry events.”

Abramson, who also writes two blogs, Working Anywhere and VoIPWatch, decides which hotels, restaurants, and even resorts, he stays in based on Wi-Fi availability.”I’ve jumped on open hotspot networks when that was all that was available and have carried a Wi-Fi detector to find the open signals,” he said.

Abramson has a T-Mobile account, and in a pinch when Wi-Fi isn’t available, he has a 3G modem that he can insert either “Pay as You Go” or contracted 3G data SIM cards to make sure he gets online. Whether he’s inside his hotel apartment in London or in the Virgin Lounge at Heathrow Airport, Abramson will find a way to get online. He carries an arsenal of mobile devices that allow him to connect: three mobile phones, (a Nokia, a BlackBerry, and his new Samsung), two laptops (Mac and PC), and an Internet Tablet from Nokia.

“When I’m on the Internet wirelessly, I’m also able to make phone calls using VoIP over Wi-Fi using services like Truphone, GizmoProject, and Skype,” he said.

Dave Taylor, a Colorado-based blogger at AskDaveTaylor.com, also works from public hotspots, mainly at cafés, on a daily basis. “It’s much more fun than working from home,” Taylor said. “Over time, many of my friends have also started working out of cafés. We’ll hang out and be social together even though we are all there working.”

As mobile workers, Abramson and Taylor are part of a growing class of workers—dubbed “bedouins,” after the nomadic Arabs who travel from place to place in the desert—who use café-based and other public hotspots to run their professional lives. 

Eamonn Carey, from Dublin, Ireland, has spoken at conferences and trade shows about the bedouin lifestyle.

“It’s a great life to have if you can make it work for you,” said Carey, who runs, Random Thoughts Media, a mobile and online video production company, and Fanscast.tv, a user-generated site connecting fans with their favorite bands, television shows, teams, and movies. “You’re always mobile and you get to hang out in cool coffee houses or bars. As broadband speeds get faster, and as Wi-Fi becomes even more widespread, you’ll see more people working like this, particularly in the creative industries, but hopefully in other industries as well.”

Freelance Web designer Nathan Swartz of ClickNathan.com agrees.

“We’re close to the point where it’s really becoming less important to go into the office,” he said. “When you have access to different types of technology, like e-mail, instant messaging, and cell phones, you can always get a hold of someone as easily as you could by walking down the hall.”

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