300 words: Plug hunting

Why digital nomads no longer care about free wifi

Many moons ago, enterprising coffee shops and bars looking for a unique selling point would have wifi installed and post ‘Free Wifi’ in big letters on their doors, windows or boards outside.

It was rare and revolutionary at the time. As a remote worker looking for places other than your own home to work, you suddenly had choices which weren’t libraries or large public buildings.

Coffee has also come a long way since those days. Most coffee shops now have the ability to knock up an acceptable cappuccino, latte or flat white.

But fast forward to recent years and the same remote workers now have power hungry laptops, and use far more battery saping applications to do much of their work. These remote workers are also carrying phones and other usb devices which won’t withstand heavy usage and survive the day.

And so the plug hunt was born.

Unlike the remote working crowd, it doesn’t feel like many businesses have cottoned on to it yet, but some coming through the door will circle around looking for seats where there are easily accessible plugs. If there aren’t any, they may just walk staight back out.

As a remote worker, I not only maintain my own list of places who have plugs, but also whether the staff are happy for you to plug your own equipment in, and where the seating with plugs is situated.

A key part of planning my remote days is to review my list for where I’ll work, how long I can go between charges, and which tasks will use most power when I’m not connected.

The next logical step is for businesses to install, and promote plug socket access to go along with their free wifi and coffee.

There is a downside to this. If you offer remote workers free wifi, good coffee and plug sockets, your business is likely to be full of remote workers. They aren’t the highest value customers, and don’t spend anywhere close per hour to those coming in for a meal and then immediately leaving.

A one off or hourly charge for plug access might go some way to making the revenue side of the promotion work. A limit on free power to quieter times of the day might also help.

For now the plug hunt continues.

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