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I spend a minimum of 6-7 hours every week working from my car. Before kids, there were weeks when I’d spend 20 hours working from my car. Needless to say, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to make working from a vehicle comfortable.
In this post, I will cover:
- Why Work in Your Car?
- 8 Tools and Essentials for Working From Your Car
- What to Wear When Working From Your Car
- Where to Park When Working From Your Car
- How to Make Working From Your Car More Enjoyable
- Why Not Work from a Coffee Shop?
- Is Working From Your Car Safe?
- Is It Okay to Nap When Working From Your Car?
- Should You Let People Know You Work From Your Car?
Why Work in Your Car?
There are many reasons you may want to work from your car. These are my top 3:
1. Working from your car reduces wasted commute time.
The primary reason I work from my car now is time. It takes 22 minutes to drive from my house to my daughter’s preschool. If I went home to work, I’d waste roughly an hour commuting when I could be working kid-free.
For me, that hour is essential. Losing it to commuting is not an option.
2. Working from your car allows you to capitalize on time between meetings.
While more and more meetings and interviews have become virtual, in-person meetings still occur. And generally, they don’t happen back-to-back-to-back. This means the time between appointments can easily turn into dead space.
Rather than twiddle your thumbs (or get stuck in the IG scroll), knock out a few to-dos between interviews.
3. Working from your car gives you the freedom to work anywhere (just about).
I’ve worked beside the ocean. I’ve worked on the ocean (thumbs up for the ferry). I’ve worked in small, nondescript neighborhoods, community parks, and bustling city streets.
Long story short, I’ve worked just about anywhere. Heck, I’ve worked from the campground at a country music festival!
8 Tools & Essentials for Working From Your Car
What you need to work from your car successfully may vary based on what you do. The following are the essentials that I use as a freelance writer.
Roughly 80 percent of my work is done on a computer responding to emails, doing keyword research, drafting articles, scheduling social shares, etc. A computer is essential to my business. And because I need to be able to move my office at a moment’s notice, I’ve invested in a high-powered MacBook Pro.
Hot Tip: Regularly back up your machine to the cloud, especially if it’s your primary device and you use it on the go. You just never know what’s going to happen.
If your computer breaks or it’s stolen, the content on it and the work it produces is your livelihood. You need to be able to get back up and running quickly. This is a lesson I learned the hard way.
If you’re wondering why you would ever need a cellphone, working from your car is not for you. Hard stop.
If you’re like the vast majority of working America, you already have this essential piece of equipment.
Making sure your laptop is charged is great, but your battery only lasts for so long. You need a way to plug your computer in.
A Car Power Inverter plugs into a cigarette lighter, giving you a traditional three-prong outlet for your computer chord. One thing to keep in mind is that not all cars deliver electricity to the cigarette lighter when they are turned off. And even those that do, don’t always deliver enough power to charge your computer.
This means you’ll often need to turn your car on when your computer runs out of juice — a critical thing to keep in mind when you’re looking at the gas tank.
4. Lap Desk or Cutting Board
Balancing your laptop on your knees, center console or car dash GETS OLD. It can also give you excess pains in all kinds of strange places when you contort your body to hold your laptop while writing.
5. Mobile Hotspot
Let’s just all accept that access to the internet is crucial. Is there any work you can do offline? Sure. But the vast majority of it will require the internet. A mobile hot spot allows you to broadcast your own Wi-Fi anywhere you have a signal.
You can purchase a mobile hotspot device, like this one. Or you can do what I do and use your iPhone’s hotspot feature. I like this option because I only have to purchase one device, and I can wrap my cell phone and hotspot data plan into one.
6. Cooler and Ice Packs
Buying food on the go can be costly, not to mention unhealthy. And depending on where you are, you might not have easy access to a store.
While you can (and should) pack dry snacks (like granola bars and nuts), having something fresh on hand is an excellent way to keep yourself fueled and less tempted to buy a ‘treat.’
The better your cooler/icepack setup, the longer your perishables will keep. We have several different small day coolers. These are my two favorite pairings. Fair warning…we’re a Yeti house.
This is my go-to solution for a 3 – 4 hour work sesh. It can easily hold a full-sized lunch or a hearty snack. One of my favorite spreads is cheese, grapes, hummus, and carrots.
This is a good choice for a full day working from the road. It can hold enough for two people for the day (and then some).
If I go on longer trips than a day, I’ll take a bigger Yeti Tundra. Both they’re big and bulky. I don’t go to all that trouble for just a day.
7. Hot/Cold Drink Container
Having something to drink is equally as important as having something to eat. My go-to choice is hot coffee, but I’m a coffeeaholic. You may prefer tea or iced coffee or water.
Just make sure to put it in a container that will keep it at the right temperature. A drink that should be hot that’s cold isn’t very satisfying. My go-to hot and cold drink container is a 30 oz. Yeti Tumbler.
8. Reliable Headphones
Depending on where you’re parked, the noise around you can be intrusive. This is especially true during the summer months when you may want to roll down the windows.
A good set of headphones can help cut down external noises, making it easier to work and take phone calls hands-free. I’m partial to my Apple AirPods.
What to Wear When Working From Your Car
Generally speaking, comfort is my main priority when I’m turning my car into a mobile office. For me this means:
- Yoga Pants
- T-shirt or Tank Top
- Long Sleeve Shirt
- Warm Jacket
- Shoes and Socks
The goal is to have layers. The temperature inside your car can fluctuate and you don’t want to depend solely on your car’s heater or AC to regulate your comfort.
That being said, if you’re bouncing between meetings, you’ll likely need to wear whatever’s appropriate for the meeting.
What about how you look when you’re working from your car?
There are certainly days I look less put together than others. It happens. I’m in a hurry and grab whatever seems adequately clean. And on those days I look a bit like a bum.
But as much as time and energy allow, I try to at least look somewhat out together. It helps me have more confidence if I have to run into a store, decide to treat myself to a coffee shop pit stop or need to visit a client unexpectedly.
Where to Park When Working From Your Car
Always make sure you’re parked in a legal parking space — and ideally one that’s free. This can be challenging if you’re working in the city, but paying for parking (or parking tickets) can really add up.
Another thing to consider is your surroundings. Take stock of who is around when you park. If the area seems sketchy, it’s best to find another place.
My go-to parking is typically a park because it often offers:
- Good people watching
- A scenic view
- A bathroom
But I’m also fond of finding a place that offers a killer view. And bonus points if it is near a flat walking trail, so I can get out and stretch my legs without working up a sweat.
Are you working in a city? It can be more difficult to find free parking in a metropolitan area. (Read, next to impossible.) Neighborhoods can be a good bet. If you’re in the Seattle area, there are a variety of neighborhoods tucked just outside the city center where you can sometimes find parking.
In downtown Bellevue? The parking lot at Bellevue Square and at Bellevue Downtown Park are also good bets.
Bonus Tip: Park Where There is Shade
Even on a cooler day, the inside of your car can heat up quickly in the sun. When possible, make sure you park in the shade or have a shady spot you can move to if needed.
How to Make Working From Your Car More Enjoyable
Equipping your remote office is the first step to making your car work sesh more enjoyable. But the true beauty of working from your car is freedom.
Park where there’s a view. Plan to take a hike or walk. If you’re in a new neighborhood or town, splurge on sampling a new restaurant. (Eating in your car saves money, but doing so exclusively can get old after a while!)
Don’t Work From the Driver’s Seat!
Want your mobile car office to be as comfortable and enjoyable as possible? Move your butt to the passenger’s seat. When’s the last time you set up a home office with a big steering wheel in your lap? Never.
That’s because it’s uncomfortable. It makes holding and working on a laptop uncomfortable. So don’t sit in the driver’s seat where you’ll be left feeling cramped. Slide on over. Your body will thank you.
Why Not Work from a Coffee Shop?
I love a good coffee shop work sesh. Coffee shops offer a lot of benefits:
- Yummy coffee
- A real table (typically)
- Interesting people watching
- Free Wi-Fi (typically)
But, they also have their downsides:
- Noise (This can be distracting and make taking phone calls difficult.)
- Cost (It’s generally expected that you buy something from the coffee shop in which you’re working. Common courtesy is to buy one item an hour.)
- Privacy (If you’re working on sensitive material, be conscious of what you say, the potential for people to read your screen, and the ease with which a computer can be hacked on a public Wi-Fi.)
Is Working From Your Car Safe?
Is walking down the street safe? Working from your car is as safe as where you park. Set up shop where there are regular car prowls and break-ins, and it’s probably not very safe.
Is It Okay to Nap When Working From Your Car?
In my opinion, it depends. You are an easier target when you’re asleep. So you need to consider how safe a place is.
Beyond that, if you have the time to nap, I say go for it! Naps are wonderful and you’re a lot more efficient when you’re well-rested.
Should You Let People Know You Work From Your Car?
I believe transparency is best. If I’m taking a client call or conducting an interview, I try to always start out with a small heads up that I’m working remotely that day. I don’t make a big deal about it.
But making sure the other party is aware leaves room for understanding if something happens, like your drop the call or there’s a strange background noise. It can also be a good ice breaker. The key is to own your remote status, not hide from it.
That being said, I wouldn’t recommend blasting out your exact location on social media. Chances aren’t overly high that someone would use that info to attack you, but why borrow trouble?