Video Conferencing: How To Set Up Your Home Workstation for Productive Work Video Calls

Video Conferencing: How To Set Up Your Home Workstation for Productive Work Video Calls

With physical distancing being the best thing one can do right now, the vast majority of the workforce has moved on to work from home. This entails a lot of challenges, including staying focused, not overworking, not underperforming etc.

There is one aspect of working from home in particular that can be tricky to tackle even for the most seasoned remote workers.

It’s how to set up the best space for video conferencing from home.

No matter if your company uses Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex or ClickMeeting, it is important to set the workspace for the video calls right.

In this article you will finally find the answers to this and other video-conferencing questions.  Simply follow these steps to upgrade your home into a beautiful and effective workspace for video calls.

 

What are the essentials for setting up a good video call?

Although the obvious answer to this question might be a computer with a decent camera and a good internet connection, there is more you can do to become a master at video conferencing from home.

There are four equally important components to creating the best setup for productive video calls:

  • Lighting
  • Background
  • Undisturbed environment
  • Ergonomics & functionality
To tackle each of these steps right, follow this checklist IN ANY ORDER, as all components must align for productive video calls:

1. Understand the lighting

Source: Unsplash

Lighting is what will make or break your video call. It can make you appear professional and ready, or sluggish and uninterested. Sounds like a pretty important aspect, doesn’t it?

Luckily, you can create a setup by following these basic principles:

  • Find the place with the most evenly distributed natural lighting.
To do this, turn your webcam on, take your device and walk around your home to find the best spot for video calls. Best spot meaning not too dark, not too bright, and the light should be evenly distributed.
  • Make sure you sit in front of the brightest light source in the room.
This means, if the room has a window with natural light coming in, make sure you are facing the window during the video call. If there are superbright ceiling lights behind you, you might want to turn these off and look for options to ensure best front-facing lighting.
  • If the natural light sources in your home are not that great, try and assess what artificial light you can use.
If no natural light is available, or it is insufficient, use artificial light. A simple way to do this is to clip your reading light straight to the laptop. Try and re-purpose the lamps you have in the house, but in case nothing seems to be working, you can also just order some online to set up the perfect workspace.
 

2. Find the best background (or create one)

Source: Unsplash

When it comes to finding or creating the best background for your video calls, there are two elements you must take into account: Aesthetics and Functionality.

Aesthetics

As much as we hate to admit it, aesthetics play a huge part in human lives, and having a video call while self- isolating is no exception. And, although most homes do not include a specifically designated office area, it doesn’t mean  you can’t create the most fitting background on the spot.

Features to look for in your existing setup:

  • Check if the best lighting spot in your house aligns with the best background.
  • If possible, the wall behind you would be plain and one-colored.
  • As mentioned in the previous chapter, no windows behind you that’d give too much backlight.
  • The background is not too crowded with things that might draw attention away from you during the call.

How to upgrade and create a better background:

  • Redesign by moving things around
Evaluate your chances of redesigning the background on the spot. Sometimes all your background needs is that little pop of personality with basic interior elements. Some plants, a coffee table, books, paintings, a sofa are all great neutral background fillers.
  • Create a physical backdrop
Do you have an unexpected video call and just want to quickly cover those freshly painted crayon drawings by your 5 year old Picasso behind you? Worry not, as you can always re-purpose curtains or bed sheets and cover the wall behind you to help you in a rush. A little adhesive tape goes a long way, just ensure you don’t damage the wall itself.
  • Use a virtual background
If you can in no way make your kitchen cabinets appear to be an office, you can try one of the virtual backgrounds.

Most popular video conferencing services such as ClickMeeting, Cisco WebexRingCentral and Zoom offer a built-in option to upload an image to use as a background or at least blur the real one out. 

Even better, the internet is full of sample images you can use for this. For example, Hello Backgrounds offers 200+ images and videos ready to be used as backgrounds specifically for – you guessed it- Zoom calls.

You can even use services of Virtual Office to create Branded Zoom virtual backgrounds with your company Logo.
Bear in mind, for this to work best, you most probably will need a green-colored background, or the image behind you might become distorted as you move. 
 
If you have that- congratulations, you can work in ANY room of your house and still look like you are sitting in a fancy office or on a terrace in Paris.
 
  • Blur your background
For those of us who don’t have a green wall or a bedsheet to create a greenscreen backdrop with, there are tools that allow you to use live other ways of changing the background without the need of special setups.
And, if the best lit spot in the house has a really crowded background and there is nothing you can do about it  (no worries, we found our bathtub cannot be moved either), you can try any of background-blurring tools out there.
Yes, you heard it right. There are now AI based tools such as XSplit VCam  that allow you to blur, sharpen or replace the background without needing a green screen. Simply do a little bit of research and find what digital tools work best for you and the software you use.

Functionality

Now that you understand the importance of aesthetics, you must not forget to check if some key functionality is in place.

Rules that must not be overlooked when choosing a functional workspace for video calls:

  • Sit across from the doorways
As counterintuitive as this sounds, facing doors can simply save you from uncomfortable situations like this one:

Source: giphy

  • Ensure no pathways are behind you

As this article suggests, it means you might have to sit close enough to a wall so that no children (or wifes, husbands, grannies and puppies for that matter) can run behind you unnoticed during an important call, leaving you with the same BBC interview gone bad situation above.

 

3. Ensure a distraction-free environment

As described in this article on communicating with others when working from home, interruptions from others can be even more annoying at home than in the office. Especially during an important video call.

That’s why it would be wise to try and ensure a distraction-free environment.

For those living alone it will be as easy as two steps:

  • Inform your neighbors
Preferably, inform them at least a day in advance. It’s always best for them to know when not to drill that hole in the wall during your sales pitch.
It is of utmost importance to contact your neighbors by using any method that doesn’t involve close contact. You could phone them, send a message or simply by talk through the door. If you absolutely must meet them face-to-face, ensure at least six feet (2 meters) distance between you two.
  • Close your windows
You’d be surprised how often a meeting has been ruined by a car too fast or a bird chirping too loud. With such a simple solution, there are no excuses not to do it.
 

Proven ways for us sharing the home with anyone else:

  • Follow the same two steps suggested for those living alone
  • Inform your family or roommates
Tell your family in advance and remind them shortly before the beginning of your meeting. This is crucial, as your family probably has lots going on and can simply forget if you don’t remind them once again.
  • Use a do not disturb sign
Use a do not disturb sign to lower the chances of being disturbed during the video call. 
Even if you have the luxury of having the door, that doesn’t always guarantee situations like this to be avoided:
How to work from home

Source: gihpy

That’s why it would be wise to use some kind of a way to show family you’re busy in real-time. Of course, you could print out a clever do not disturb sign, but you’d risk having it on your door all day long and leaving no time for them to actually interact with you (which loses the whole point of having a sign anyway). 
The alternative could be an LED light that shows if you’re busy or available with the help of red or green colors. And the fun part is – you can customize your colors to show unique statuses.

This way your family can still enjoy time together without interrupting you in the middle of a conference call.

And look, some have even found out that it works better with kids than it did with their coworkers:

  • Use headphones
Headphones can be an absolute life-saver when it comes to video calls. Firstly, it can ensure you actually hearing what others say, and secondly, it can assist with blocking distracting noises out. 
 
For this purpose use Active Noise Cancellation. It can be very helpful when your neighbors didn’t listen and just keep renovating their living room right next to your dedicated workspace. Or when your kids are watching the latest cartoons on Netflix.
 If possible, use wireless headphones like these. As stressful as switching to remote work already is for you, figuring out where to put the cord from your headphones is just an unnecessary pain that can easily be avoided.
 

4. Set up ergonomically with functionality in mind

Source: Unsplash

Even if the other three components of a good setup for video conferencing fail, these are the ones that you should not overlook.

Here are the four major things to consider when setting up your workstation for video calls:

  • Place your laptop on a steady surface
Make sure your laptop is placed on a steady surface at least at desktop level.
You can use a breakfast tray or some books to elevate the laptop on your desk surface to the optimal height, so that your camera would be at eye level. Use a surface that is flat and wide enough so it can support your wrists in case of the need to to type.
DO NOT have the computer on your lap, this is unacceptable in the professional world, not to mention the queasy feeling your watchers can get when your laptop wobbles!
  • Choose comfortable seating
Choose the most comfortable chair for sitting or steady place for standing, so you can withstand the longevity of the call comfortably. Nobody wants to see you fidgeting around to get more comfortable throughout the call.
  • Have all things at hand
Preferably have all the materials you might need at arm’s reach so you don’t have to get up in the middle of your call and start hectically looking through the bookshelf in the background or worse- leave the room. This includes thinking about artificial lighting ahead, so you wouldn’t have to leave the screen to adjust the lighting.
  • Test your setup before the call
Somehow this one keeps being dismissed the most even by the most experienced remote workers… Once you have chosen the right spot and adjusted to all the tips in this guide, turn on your camera and double-check if there is enough evenly distributed light on your face, a good background that doesn’t draw the attention away from you, and that no interruptions can happen for the whole duration of the call. It’s better to double check than to be sorry later.
 

Some final words

When it comes to creating the best workspace for video conferencing at home, it really depends on how well prepared you are in terms of your surroundings.

So invest a little time, check if your setup aligns with our recommendations on all four important components, and test before the call!

Feel free to send us images of your working from home setup to support@luxafor.com!