On Working from an iPad in an Office

On the questions which come, and your response

The trope of “can an iPad be used for real work” is alive and kicking. And though I’m noticing something of a shift with a few folks, the perception that somehow a keyboard and a power cable are necessary for work throws me off a bit. Still, I can’t help but be in the middle of such a conversation when I’m a part of those who have shifted to using an iPad (Pro) for work.

That said, there are a few questions which will come from folks when you decide to use an iPad for [office] work. In answering these, I hope you can find some peace at your desk, or at least grab an affiliate link to the store of your choice when folks start their own shifts.

‪Here are a few of the questions which commonly come my direction:‬

  • ‪can you get work done on that‬
  • do you have a flash drive‬
  • can I borrow your Ethernet/VGA/HDMI adapter‬
  • can you help me configure my MacBook‬
  • how do you sit like that all day‬

‪Can you get work done on that‬?

The fragility of this question comes from a disconnect of context. You are there working, and likely not just working, but excelling in your work on said iPad. Therefore your answer is pretty simple, “yes, this is what my work requires and here’s how using an iPad makes it smarter for how I work.”

Have your short demos ready to go of things you are working on. You might also want to do something fast/fancy (showing side-by-side apps then switching to another is always great here) to show just how adept working on the iPad has become for you. Let their questions drive the convo from there.

That lack of a mouse to touch and manipulate objects throws folks, just watch their expressions.

‪Do you have a flash drive‬?

This is one of my more favorite questions because it lives in that messy space between security and convenience. Now, you could have one of Seagate’s Wifi-enabled USB keys (or AirStash, an older favorite) to smartly answer this. Of course, you will have to go into a small demo of how it works for you as they will quickly look for a USB port on your iPad. That’s ok. Explain how you do it wirelessly and what downsides you have/don’t have. Then make sure you’ve secured your info on said drive before giving it to them (bonus if the drive has public and private areas for this kind of play).

That said, it’s likely you don’t have a flash drive. As a matter of fact, you might have given up on carrying one because of the inability for iOS to do more than transfer photos with the Lightning Camera connector. That’s ok. Be happy with how you use cloud services, and if what they need really begs for a flash drive, there’s likely a few folks in the office who can comply with said request.

You will look like an elitist no matter how you respond here though.

‪Can I borrow your Ethernet/VGA/HDMI adapter‬?

Almost a daily question in some offices I’m sure. Meeting rooms are fun for being fast and accessible to all manners of machines, but MacBooks are a different beast. So if you’ve got your iPad, you need to be ready for the inevitable ask of using your iOS adapter (if you have one).

You won’t be able to help those who don’t have an iPad though. You will look a bit stingy to the Macbook folks because even though both are Apple products, the wired connectors are much different. So they will fumble, and you will likely have your notes app opened side-by-side with the meeting agenda. Your readiness is going to eventually be a point of contention. So don’t sit so close to the presenter next time.

‪Can you help me configure my MacBook‬

Now, here’s where I have to confess that I don’t have any relevant recent macOS experience. It feels wrong to some in the “iPad as a work machine” camp but it is what it is. I left desktop operating systems a decade ago; what it takes to configure and tweak them I just don’t know. That said, marketing demands I should know, and therefore so should you, on how to configure a macOS machine on the company network.

Now, if you know how. You will be a hero. And also the point of contact for IT when they allow more and more folks to come in with MacBooks. You aren’t there for support items, so have your flash drive or company wiki page ready to send them to.

If you don’t know, you will be an elitist also. But for different reasons, your iOS carrying self will now have the answer the previous “how do you get work done” questions. It might soon be followed up with “how do I help my child setup their iPad for school,” or “which iPad do you recommend for me.” This is ok. Just don’t wave them down when they start coming to work with their iPads or Surface Pro devices.

‪How do you sit like that all day‬?

At first you might be tempted to ignore this question. It is, after all, kind of a silly one to ask. But, there’s a bit of a truth in the question you have to come to grips with: working on a tablet doesn’t mean you will want to sit there, let along sit for long. Oh, you might be like myself (in the space of UX and service design) where you spend hours hunched over the screen with the Pencil (blessed are those who have an architect’s desk instead of the no-frills cubicle norm). But you are different, and such a posture denotes not just a different method of working, but a different perspective of it.

So, like in the first question, you need to have your quick demos/work products ready to go. Bonus if you can project to a monitor on your desk in the middle of the convo so that you can do the multi-focus thing. You will get a few questions, or even a few folks who go silent with the “I’m just watching you” phrase before they go back to their contexts. But, your posture is different. And as such, you are literally working on a different frequency than others, even if you are doing similar work to them.

Now, there are definitely more questions, and a boat load of comments which will come if you decide to use an iPad in office settings. At worst, you will become the signal to leadership and IT of a smarter way to work — making you the evangelist for that way, while also doing your regular job.

At best, folks will watch silently, taking their own notes before eventually settling into an experiment of using the iPad or another tablet themselves. It will be filled with a different set of questions and expectations. And it might not even end with a change for any of them. But for you, you’ll understand what coworkers do and don’t understand about computing and work. That kind of knowledge applied to your products and processes will serve you well in that org and beyond.

After all, what’s the point of a bicycle for your mind if you don’t allow yourself the moments to go down roads others speed past in their cars.

If there are questions you entertain in your school/workplace regarding your iPad or other tablet usage, would love to hear about them in the comments here.

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