I’ve spoken a bit in the past about how to make your (sometimes unexpected!) remote work environment work for you. Whether it’s setting up anywhere that you can find a place — be it your kitchen table, your sofa, and for those lucky few, an actual dedicated home office — having a place where you can get into the work mindset and be able to focus is key to maintaining a productive day. 🙂
So, what do you do once you’re there? These days, you’re probably going to spend a lot of time in front of a camera, right? As video interface platforms become more and more important, you’re seeing the inside of everyone’s home and — sometimes the inside of their noses — when they have a less than ideal set up.
Earlier this week I gave my quickest possible set of recommendations for how to step up your video call game (spoiler: it’s not combing your hair, though probably that too!). I’m here now to give you a much more expanded set of recommendations . . . and there’s even a video to demonstrate these suggestions!
So, let’s delve a little deeper into lighting before we move onto some of the other topics on how to up your professional (or at least less-awful) video presence. The easiest solution for most people is to set their work station up so that they are facing a window with bright-but-indirect lighting.
It’ll make you look something like this:
But that’s not always an option. Sometimes you might find yourself hiding from your children in your bedroom closet trying to get the last 5 minutes of a call done before someone is yelling for a snack (just a random example. Not that I’d know or anything. Not that I’ve ever been there more than once a day!):
In that case, you might need to get a little creative. Depending on your budget, you’ve got a host of options available to you. One of the quickest and least expensive ways to add more light is to purchase an adjustable goose neck lamp with a warm bulb hue.
For under $30, you’ve got this option, which is pretty similar to the one that I use but if you’re feeling a bit fancy, you can spend around $40 for a version that offers dimmable lighting and three color hues. Both lamps have the ability to direct the light at an angle that is most flattering for your work space, but they can both require a bit more floor space than you may have available in order to distance it from your desk and avoid washing your face out. No need to start looking like something out of the Twilight Zone! 😱
That brings us to the solution that I use for both of my children’s desks as they work on remote schooling in fairly confined spaces (when they’re not stealing mine, that is!). As I showed you in my newest video a simple clip-on desk lamp is another good solution. For $15, this is the one that I showed you. It’s pretty barebones, only has one setting, and can be a little blinding, but you can’t beat the price and it doesn’t take up much space. Direct it away from your face, bounce it off of a different surface, and you’ll be OK. Again, the key here is finding what works best for you. That means that if your desk is in a more public part of your home might mean you’d like something that fits your decor better, or that offers additional features like on-board USB charging. For about $60 this lamp ticks both style and my wife’s very opinionated ideals about lamps. And before you ask, yes. I think it’s ridiculous. All of the 🙄. All of them.
And, of course, there’s my favourite tip – and this one is probably something that you can
purloin borrow from either your own bathroom or from that of your partner; an illuminated free standing makeup mirror. This model has everything you’ll need and comes in at around $23 if you don’t have one and is pretty similar to the one I showed you.
So, we’ve got lighting sorted, and, if I may say so, you look marvelous. Except for that unfortunate angle. You know what I mean. The one where the laptop is sitting at table height and you’re looming over it. This also has a couple of easy fixes. Some are pretty obvious, like propping your laptop up on a couple of books so that the camera is right at eye level or moving your computer to a higher surface like a shelf and scooting your desk up to it and using a wireless keyboard and mouse.
But you might find that you’d like something with a little more adjustability. I use a Roost which is one of the more expensive versions of the laptop stand market, but I like it because it’s lightweight and folds up small enough to fit easily into a backpack (or you can use the knock off version called a Nexstand). Here again, though, it’s a matter of personal preference and budget. I also REALLY like this one which is a bit bigger but offers a variety of height adjustments and a sturdy base (plus it’s only $50)!
Here’s my entire setup as is (clearly, here I am editing this very post!). I’m using that latter-most stand, an ergo keyboard, and a portable second monitor. As you can see, even though this isn’t my primary place for video calls, I still have my laptop elevated for ergonomic reasons alone:
Now what? Well, the elephant in the blurry room is the camera. Most people can get away with the on-board camera on their laptop. It’s not movie quality, but it’s easy to use and doesn’t require any additional outlay. Though, if I may suggest, it’s a good idea to either stick a piece of Post-It note or purchase a sliding camera blocker for when you’d rather not have even the possibility of someone tapping into your camera.
I may be paranoid, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me! 😉 And don’t forget that even folks who want you to give you all of your data do the same thing. For $7 for a pair, these are the kind that I like.
Anyway. Cameras. Right.
So, like me, you’re probably on camera A LOT and would prefer something that provides a better picture quality. Most experts will recommend the Logitech line, and I agree, they’re amazing, but they’re also largely sold out and when they’re not they’re also pretty expensive. I use a Wyze Cam that is not technically for this application, but recognizing a pretty large need, the folks over at Wyze released firmware updates that will turn their security cameras into webcams! They work pretty great and you can’t beat the pricepoint ($25 for the basic model).
And, last but not least now that you’ve got your tech set up, let’s touch on an earlier topic — what’s that behind you? I know you’ve seen coworkers taking calls from their beds, from coffee shops, from sofas, and from the pool-side; all of which are totally fine! But if you’re looking for a consistent and professional background consider doing what I have done by take a few bookcases from around my house and lining them with books that make me look smart (arguably) and cool (let me dream, OK?) and providing an interesting-but-not busy background.
Don’t have a ton of books or they’re just not representative of who you are? Take a look around your house for things that show off your personality in a professional, but personal way. I’ve got a collection of old cameras and vintage maps, for example, that give the person on the other side something other than a blank wall, but don’t detract from the topic.
Don’t have any of those things available? Or maybe find yourself working out of a small space that you don’t want to display behind you? No problem! You can opt for a screen. I showed you this one which has served a huge number of purposes; from headboard to room divider, to the background for zoom calls. At about $100 from Amazon, you can have it directly delivered to your door. Or you can check out places like Target or your local neighborhood selling platform for a much better price. The other screen I showed you is a bit more expensive (last I checked like $20 more), but is way fancier. Honestly, I have screen envy. But if you’re even fancier than that then the sky’s basically the limit — there’s something to fit every taste and budget.
So, there you have it! Long story REALLY long, but this time with details so that you can find exactly what you need to make your remote office as functional and comfortable as you need it to be.
If there are any other questions that you have on this subject (or anything!), drop me a line and I’ll do my best to address them in my next posting or video!
I’m Ash Rhodes, and I’m here to help
Please Note: all product links in this post are affiliate links, but are only meant as a place for you to start your own personal hunt for exactly what YOU want. I wasn’t paid to promote these products and my opinions are given without any influence by the product sellers.