One of the biggest shake-ups the pandemic has brought about is making the home the operating office. But the blurring of personal and professional boundaries doesn’t mean you need to proclaim to the world that you are working in your bedroom or the dining or from a corner in the living room with the television showing the IPL matches right behind you. This is especially so when making professional Zoom calls.
Before the 2020 work-from-home global phenomenon happened, those of us working from home desks only paid attention to the view in front of the work desk. But now, when we are conducting live video team meetings on a daily basis, we need to be more aware of what is in the background of our work area.
Not many people would have the luxury of a fully functional home office, but that doesn’t mean you cannot create a professional background in one section of the room when you are interacting with clients or with your team on a video chat.
So what are the points to keep in mind to ensure you do not end up sharing your untidy work space – unmade beds, chaotic living rooms strewn with kids toys or that cheesy photograph on the wall – with your colleagues and clients during a video call?
First, consider what you are happy to reveal about yourself during a video call. Since you can’t always control what happens in the background when you are on a call, the safest bet is to conduct your video calls while sitting with your back against a wall. This ensures the camera frame would have a static, unchanging background.
But watching someone speak with a backdrop of a grey wall can be boring. So how can you jazz up the frame? How can you exhibit a bit of your own personality without making too big a dent to the wall or your wallet?
Here are some ideas...
Home is where the office is
What better way to show a structured approach to working from home than showing off a fully functional home office space. If you have a room to spare, take the plunge and create a full-fledged home office for yourself. You may create any desired ambience theme for this office space or art studio depending upon your personal taste or the nature of your work.
If you’re into the creative field, opt for a refreshing and bright art studio look; if your work demands a classic home office, go for décor that resonates with conventional offices.
A case for bookcases
Whoever made the case for Kindle and said conventional books are a fast-dying culture, has to revisit 2020. A remarkable new phenomena seen this year is that old bookshelves are suddenly getting dusted and books getting a new lease of life, as everyone looks to the ubiquitous bookshelf for providing a safe Zoom call background. Trust us, there is no better time to show off your books collection! The proof lies in how vintage bookshelves are suddenly on the coveted furniture list and designers are coming up with new-age bookcase avatars sporting unusual shapes and unconventional materials.
This popularity stems from the psychological fact that the books we read are a safe subject of discussion. Also booklovers are seen as having an intellectual mindset. The result: the bookshelf or the classic study backdrop is fast becoming the universal favourite for creating a professional video meeting background.
But here’s a tip: Make sure you play around and flip the books around in a manner that it makes for an interesting setup… for instance, stack some titles horizontally, and then in the adjacent shelf, place some books vertically... Also, make sure not to overload the shelves with titles. Intersperse the stacked units with empty spaces where you only place a few key sculpture pieces or quirky artworks. In case you don’t like owning a bookshelf, how about having a painting or an art print which evokes images of a classic bookcase through a photo print of it?
Solo seating can be splendid
The individuality expressed by a single-seater arrangement or an artistic armchair setup makes a far more powerful statement than any other piece of furniture can. Traditionally, single seaters and armchairs have always been associated with concepts of me-time, personal space, quiet reading or unwinding phone chats. So, these strong connotations of a personal work space or a quiet corner make them apt for video call backgrounds.
The solo seater winning formula goes thus: In a quiet area of the house, get a single seater chair or an artistic armchair and place a side table next to it. Perk up the plain wall with a thought-provoking painting or wall art. Add some flowers or a plant in the background and, voila, you are sure to make a real robust statement.
Your side table won’t be as high as the conventional work table, so you’ll need to create the right camera setup by placing a few thick hardcover books under your laptop. Make sure the camera height is just slightly above your eye level as that is usually a flattering camera angle for the face. (Psst…, this way you’ll never risk revealing the dreaded double chin!)
Call out to wall art
If video meetings are a regular, create a DIY wall décor as the ideal backdrop for your calls. Setting yourself up against a solid wall background in a quiet area of the house is the easiest option when it comes to Zoom backgrounds. All you need to do is to hang some impressive wall art: simply show off with pride your desired display of wall art or paintings.
You will be spoilt for choice with the vast options that exist in the popular genres of abstract art, nature sceneries, iconic movie posters, pop art and photo prints. Additionally, statement clocks and wall-mounted metallic 3D artworks make for attractive wall décor options too.
One great thing about the video call is that you only have to worry about the space that would fit in the webcam frame. So, if you don’t want to dig too deep into your pocket, a practical option would be to wallpaper just one segment of the wall of your home in a print of your choice. Use that as the dedicated video call background. Better still, you can keep replacing the wallpaper so you will be showing off a new backdrop every once in a while.
Scour the market for an array of classical patterns, vintage motifs or modern prints. After that, you just have to place a compact chair and table against this backdrop to conduct your video call.
The board will love your side boards
If one were to rate the most versatile yet aesthetic pieces of furniture, designer side boards and chests of drawers would come up top. These attractive, multi-purpose furniture pieces work well at all times. From being smart concealed or open storage pieces in a home office, crockery storage units, great entranceway decor to a dressing room accessory, the sideboard has never failed to serve us.
And now with call backgrounds on everyone’s DIY décor list, the artistic sideboard is making a strong case for itself yet again, as the prominent display platform for our art, sculptures, vases and framed quotes. Add to it the fact that they come in innovative artistic designs and you have nailed the perfect video call backdrop.
Tips to create the perfect video call setup
Adequate lighting: For good lighting, sit facing a window in front of you – natural light creates a flattering glow on your face. Or put the selfie mode on your phone camera and test the right angle where the light is the most flattering for you. Then choose that same angle for your video call camera setup.
Creating boundaries for family: With hilarious incidents of celebs discovering their kids accidentally photobombing their parents’ video meetings, it’s best to set boundaries for children and family members so they do not end up trespassing your work space. Create some bright message cards saying ‘Do Not Disturb’, or ‘Important Video Call in Progress’ and place them in a prominent spot near you for the duration of the call, so that your family does not miss seeing them.