5 Quick Tips to a Video-Ready Home Office in the time of Covid-19

Personal branding

In my years of digital entrepreneurism, I’ve seen a lot of variations of home offices. Co-working spaces, cafes, guest rooms, and dining tables – there are a lot of places you can work from. That’s the beauty of location independence, after all! 

But – “hopping on a video call” with colleagues, the media, or your online audience while hanging on the couch or multitasking a steaming pot of mushroom faux-lognese isn’t necessarily the right message (that is, unless you’re teaching them how to make it, in which case carry on, and send your recipe my way).

Home Office Set-Up

Most people are working from home daily now, and I’d bet my beloved green velvet Loeffler Randall Emilia knotted mules that there will be far more #wfh scenarios in future.

Welcome to the new world in which office “face time” is, actually, FaceTime! A world in which how you show up on video will now be more important than ever to maintaining, elevating, or bruising your professional image.

So, how do you ensure that you show up with your intention and professionalism intact? 

Use these 5 tips to set up a video meeting-ready home office fast: 

1. Find a space in your environment that you can dedicate to a home office.

If you have a full room that you can dedicate, bravo! That’s an incredible asset. But, it’s not necessary in order to show up well for video meetings. What is necessary is having a dedicated space: a table, a good chair, and an electrical outlet in a spot that’s free from the obvious distractions and visual cues of home.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my cloffice. That’s right, that’s a closet/office. But we like a good portmanteau, Darlings. This blissful little 3.5’ by 6’ space is dedicated to work and important video calls – and to my Dyson and Bmat yoga mat collection. But those are stored cleverly so that they remain unseen. 

When you invite people into your office space, you give them the opportunity to feel enveloped in your environment. And, when you see yourself on the screen, you’ll be given an instant reminder of your surroundings, too. Make sure those surroundings are intentional and support your goals.

Tamara’s Tip: Your surroundings matter.

2. Your computer is the most important tool

Not only in terms of it being your lifeline to the interwebs but also because it houses, or will support, your webcam. But – your laptop can support or diminish the quality of your personal brand on video. To optimize your video: 

  1. Position your webcam so that your viewer has a straight-on view of you. Test your angles on a personal call or by setting up an empty ZOOM room. 
  2. Ensure your viewer isn’t looking at your ceiling or up your nose. Yes, really. You won’t believe how often that happens. 
  3. Make sure to look at the camera, so that your viewer has the impression that you’re making eye contact with them! It’s weird at first, I know. Placing the video window as close as possible to the camera helps a lot, as does placing a sticky note with a smiley face on it right beside, or above, the camera!
  4. If you have multiple monitors, position your webcam at or on the computer you use most often so you are looking at your viewer and they are looking at you. Nothing is less engaging or subconsciously signals a lack of interest more than looking at someone’s profile while they’re looking at you on another monitor.

Tamara’s Tip: Try to replicate, as closely as possible, the experience of being in person. 

3. Focus on your lighting

Shadowy figures have never had a good reputation – particularly in business. 

No doubt you’ve noticed the distracting effects that poor lighting can have on video calls. It’s not just about light being “unflattering,” it’s about removing a distraction that doesn’t need to exist, in order to focus attention on the purpose of your calls.  

Ring lights or portable LED lights are affordable solutions, but if you haven’t got these already you can certainly “Macgyver” your lighting by facing your desk to a window and using natural light, or, by positioning a couple of small lamps behind your computer, to give you a soft but well-lit glow on screen.

Tamara’s Tip: Poor lighting downgrades the quality of your meeting – and your personal brand. Keep the lighting soft yet bright, just like the tone of the call. 

4. Be mindful of the walls

What’s behind you is as important as what’s in front of you. Remember your audience is taking in all of your surroundings when you’re on video. Styling your surroundings, just like styling your clothing, goes a long way to elevating your personal brand. Keep only items that support the associations you want your audience to have of you.  

Think about what creates the visual perception of organization, clarity, leadership, creativity, comfort, sophistication. How do you want to be perceived?

Tamara’s Tip: Less – a lot less – is more on camera. Remove everything and add back uniformly and sparingly.

5. Like Regina Brett said: “Get up, dress up, and show up”

In my experience as a location-independent professional with a strong community of remote workers, I am well aware of the two strongly divided crews here. It’s a real Sharks vs Jets situation. Only this time, it’s Team “Work Clothes” vs Team “Yoga Pants.” I’m pretty sure you know which team I’m on. And, I could talk about it for years. Oh wait, I have been! 

There’s a lot of solid, studied reasons why getting dressed for work – even if you’re working from home – is important.

In this case, what’s most important in the context of video meetings is what people will see on their screen. Remember that when we’re not in person, many of the senses we ordinarily rely on for decision-making are deleted from the equation. Without them, we’re forced to rely on just one sense – sight – to give us much more information to make up for the loss of the others.

Provide your viewers with visual information that they can absorb in absence of other sensorial cues. I could go on forever about this, Darling! And you can read more about how to maximize your personal brand on camera here.  

Tamara’s Tip: Focus on the “portrait” and add details that make your outfit look interesting and professional on screen.

Whether you’ve been working from home for some time, or this is your first foray into location independent working, remember that “office is where the laptop is” and every on-camera meeting is an opportunity to solidify and better your personal brand. Use these tips and see how much the quality of your meetings improve!