Walter Kinzie has had some strange visitors at his new office – deer, antelopes, four rattlesnakes and a mother goose and her goslings.
But it’s the cattle that he has really bonded with. “I might as well be one of them. They come into my area and they don’t even care that I am there, they are so used to me.”
Kinzie is the CEO of Fort Worth, Texas-based event production company Encore Live. But since early March, as coronavirus started spreading across the US, he’s been working out of his wife’s minivan on her family’s farm in South Dakota.
When the family arrived in South Dakota from Texas, Kinzie originally thought he’d work out of the basement. But a lack of cell phone reception made it difficult to get anything done.
So he spent a day driving around the 17,000-acre farm looking for cellular service. He finally found a spot on top of a hill, where he now spends most of his days working from his Honda Odyssey.
It took a few days to get up and running. His first purchase was a holder to prop up his phone during calls.
“There was too many times when I was talking to my team and they were looking at the bottom of my chin. I needed to be able to take notes and type when I was on the phone.”
The minivan office is now outfitted with a printer, laptop, iPad, even a coffee machine. He also has two tables that he sets up outside the van for added workspace.
Buying a cell phone booster was a game changer as it allowed him to stay on the hill during inclement weather. “On days when the winds were 25 miles per hour or higher, I wasn’t getting great service. The cell booster fixed that.”
For video meetings, he also has a pretty breathtaking background of South Dakota’s rolling hills. “If I don’t tell them, they just assume it’s a fake background because it’s such a pretty place,” Kinzie said.
Once a day, his wife and daughters drive by what the family now refers to as “Walter Hill.”
“They got really good when they are coming up the hill to see if my lips are moving and I am on a call. If they are, they roll down the window and wave, if not, they stop and hang out.”
Some days he’ll leave the hill to park by the pond and take calls while fishing. “It’s as country as it gets,” he said.
Judy Wheeler has also been spending time working from her car during the pandemic.
As division vice president of dealer network development and customer quality at Nissan, she is used to being on the road and would often travel weekly. So it’s been an adjustment working from home.
Sometimes she just sits in her car in the driveway while working or will go for a drive while on a call.
“I need a break and a change of scenery,” she said.
One of her favorite spots to take a call is overlooking the 18th hole at her local golf course.
“I have done many meetings from the driver’s seat. I move the steering wheel up to give even more space. I prefer to leave the computer on the center console.”
How to make working from your car work
Get comfortable. Vehicles are designed for long periods of sitting, but you still want to adjust your seat to maximize support. Adam Tacey, an ergonomics engineer at Nissan, recommended adjusting the seat back to around 19 degrees, which is typically more upright than you would have when driving. Be sure to also adjust the cushion to support your thighs as well.
He suggested moving the driver’s seat and steering wheel all the way back to maximize space (as long as you aren’t driving).
Use the car’s sound system. When taking calls from your mobile office, connect your phone to the car’s Bluetooth. The car’s microphone is designed to only pick up the driver’s voice and block other noise, according to Tacey.
“You can carry on a conversation through the Bluetooth and the person on the other end only hears your voice. The high-definition mic will filter out all the ambient noise and only pick up your voice.”
Move around. No matter where you work, you don’t want to stay in the same position for too long. When working in a car, you can move from the driver’s seat to the back seats while using the center console as a desk.
Tacey suggested you can create a standing desk at the edge of a pickup truck’s bed by propping your laptop up to eye-level or open the rear door on an SUV and do the same thing.
Keep it cool. To help keep the car cool, cover as many windows as you can.
“The glass surfaces are one of the areas that almost immediately heat up the interior,” said Tacey. “The windshield is the largest piece of glass…having something that can block that off is key to keeping the cabin temperature lower.”
And remember if you are working from your car and it’s turned on, do not have it parked in the garage or any enclosed space.
“If you are going to be in your vehicle while it’s running, have it on the driveway at least,” said Tacey.