When I first started flying for my job inflight wifi was nonexistent. Before you started to board there were always a few frantic moments of trying to get that last email sent, and then you were cut off from the world until you landed. Back then I was often frustrated that my productivity was being slowed down. I dreaded getting to my destination and seeing my inbox filled to the brim. I did as much offline work during flights as I could, but without connectivity I never got everything done. It never failed: I would land late at night, tired as hell, and see half a dozen urgent requests in my inbox. It was what I signed up for, and totally fine. But I looked forward to the day when inflight wifi would be available regularly so I could get stuff done.
Fast forward several years to the present. It’s here. Wifi is available on the majority of domestic flights, and starting to become more available on international flights. It’s pricy, but it’s available. At first it was exciting. I wouldn’t have to be cut off from the world just because I was flying. I could stay on top of my work load, and I could also stay in touch with my family as needed. What could be wrong with that?? It’s exactly what I wanted. Alas, sometimes you don’t realize you have a good thing until it’s gone. Before inflight wifi, when my offline work was done I would entertain myself or get some much needed rest. Occasionally I would remember the work that I knew was stacking up in my unreachable inbox, but eventually the freedom of being able to knit or read my Kindle cleared my mind. The stress slowly drifted away, and I believe it did so for many other passengers on these wifi-less flights.
Now if wifi is available I feel an obligation to work even if I’ve been traveling (which is working) all day. And I see it all around me. People typing away, trying to cram in all the work they can into these flights. What makes it worse is inflight wifi is usually super slow and unreliable. You get kicked offline regularly, and something that would normally take twenty minutes to do in the office takes five times that in the air. After hearing about all these diverted flights due to seat reclining it makes me wonder if having wifi in the air is making flights more stressful for passengers. (It also makes me also wonder if airlines anticipated this when making it more regularly available….) It has certainly made me more stressed out when flying and I wouldn’t be surprised if, as wifi becomes more available, we see more and more disturbances (I hope I’m wrong).
So what can a business traveler do? Well, exactly what you did when there was no wifi. When you’re flying try to take a connectivity break whenever possible. Set your customers’ expectations. Let them know that wifi is choppy in the air and that you’ll prioritize their request when you have a reliable internet connection. Give yourself a break! Allow yourself to drift off, read a book, listen to music, anything to rest your brain. You may have work to do when you get to your hotel, but at least you’ll be a little more refreshed. And in my experience when a business traveler gets time to refresh is when they’re at their best.
Readers, do you miss the days when flights didn’t have wifi?
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