Thanks to the coronavirus, almost all of us are working from home now. That means we’re inviting our bosses, co-workers, staffers and clients into our kitchens and even our bedrooms via Zoom. Video meetings have exposed some of our darkest secrets and worst habits to the world. Who know the boss collected such garish tchotchkes? And what’s up with the greasy pizza boxes?
We’re all suffering in quarantine, but some people’s poor lighting and wretched décor is just making matters worse. Honestly, some of the most successful folks should be forced to hire an interior designer once the pandemic is over. Boston weatherman, I’m looking at you – and your souvenirs from India circa 1978.
Converting a corner of your home into a professional work setting is a challenge, made even more so because you didn’t have any time to shop for a decent lamp before every store shut down. Sure, you can get away with wearing your boxers while on a video conference call but don’t you think it is time to get rid of the lava lamp you used to have in your frat house, buddy? There it is, hideously aglow, on the dresser in the background while you’re meeting with your boss. Is that really the image you want to project, young ambitious banker?
Here are some tips for how to stage your home for your next video meeting or virtual cocktail party:
• Hide the dirty laundry from the camera view. Sounds obvious? You can’t imagine how common it is to see someone’s underwear draped over a chair nowadays.
• No lamps in the background. The glaring light is distracting on viewers’ screens. Your face will appear dark and shadowed. And, to be honest, lots of lamps are too ugly for prime time. Don’t position yourself under harsh pendant lighting; it creates shadows and makes you look tired and old.
• Don’t choose a wallpapered wall as your background. Solid colors, especially neutrals, will work better. If you’re in an unfinished basement, hang an unwrinkled sheet behind you to hide the gloomy concrete walls and the rusty water heater.
• De-clutter. Remove the jacket hanging behind you on the coat rack. Better yet, remove the coat rack. You don’t want its hooks behind you, coming out of your head like antlers. Clean away the remains of your lunch.
• Chose any setting but the kitchen. Seriously, do you really want to spend an hour of valuable work time scrubbing countertops and getting rid of the dishes piled up in the sink?
• Hide the family photos, the sports trophies, and the ratty blanket on the back of the couch. They’re distracting and your meeting is not show-and-tell. Curate your belongings so they don’t suggest anything you don’t want to disclose or discuss with your company, your competitors or your neighbors if you’re doing a virtual cocktail party. And don’t do a meeting with a squirming child in your lap.
• Try to minimize traffic in the background: the drooling dog and the toddler with a loaded diaper. Keep it professional. Lock the door and let others in the house know that you are in a meeting, if possible.
• Brush your hair and your teeth. Salons and barbershops have been closed for some time now, but that doesn’t mean you should be rocking that mullet. This isn’t the 1970s. Grooming is essential, especially when you’re going to be popping up on someone’s screen in high-def.
• Be mindful of acoustics. High ceilings, wood or tile floors and unfurnished rooms create a lot of harsh echo. Upholstered furniture, rugs and other soft furnishings will soften the sounds. Try to minimize noise from outside or other rooms. And make sure you have proper seating and position your laptop or other screen appropriately. The right video angle is important. You don’t want your co-workers looking up your nose for an hour and they don’t want it either.