It’s a shift we were already experiencing; the American workforce is becoming mobile. While many had occasionally worked remotely, recent events have put mobility to the test as offices, hospitals and schools are sending employees home to work. Projections for 2020 had been that mobile workers would account for nearly three quarters (72.3%) of the total U.S. workforce. Surely we’ll see that figure exceeded, but the challenges to establish a successful, collaborative environment require more than a good WIFI signal. Here are some tips for creating a highly productive space.
Selecting the Right Space Where will your office be located? If you don’t have a dedicated office in your home, don’t be afraid to think outside of the 4-wall box. Your perfect space will be defined by the type of work you do and the equipment you’ll be using, not by the room itself. If a separate or hybrid space isn’t an option, consider converting a space under a stairwell or re-imagining a niche or closet. Ideally it will be separate from daily living areas and free from distractions that could interfere with work or interrupt calls or video conferencing. Most importantly, it will offer easy accessibility to the home network. Now that you’ve got the space, here are some best practices for professional collaboration:
- Color–Furnishings and walls should be ergonomically pleasing and conducive to extended use. Opt for muted, neutral tones or a soft shade of blue-grey, avoiding harsh, dark or vivid shades. Choose a matte finish avoiding a high gloss that would be reflective. Wallpapers and fabric wallcoverings with subtle, non-reflective designs also work well.
- Backdrop–Be thoughtful of the background when video conferencing. Keep the space clear of clutter and personal affects. Portable pop-up screens (generic or imprinted with the company logo), room dividers and bookcases provide a professional backdrop and element of privacy.
- Acoustics– Create a quiet space. Carpeting, area rugs and upholstered furnishings help to manage reverberant noise. Acoustic treatments, including custom wall panels, also aid in noise absorption.
- Lighting–Natural lighting offers the best experience. Take advantage of natural sunlight by positioning the desk to face the window, avoiding shadows while on camera. For harsh, direct sunlight, add motorized window shades, available in various light-filtering, non-reflective weaves. If the room’s design is not conducive to proper desk placement and the light source is behind you, blackout shades can be added to properly control the light levels. Ceiling fans with lights create a strobing effect on camera and should be turned off. An integrated home automation system provides agile control of lighting, window shades, ceiling fans and HVAC, ideal for the working from home.
The Infrastructure A stable, secure and robust network connection is essential for reliable network connectivity and a quality conferencing experience. Hardwired broadband is recommended over wireless when possible. Also important to bear in mind is the number of users in the home that are competing for bandwidth. The Tools Based on network capability and hardware compatibility, there are numerous platforms available for seamless collaboration. (We’ve got conferencing experts ready to guide you through your choices!)Here are some additional considerations for enhancing your experience:
- Audio – Conferencing requires 2-way audio and can be problematic without the right equipment as devices can produce distortion and echo. Rather than relying on the laptop’s built-in speaker and microphone, opt for an external echo-cancelling speaker with microphone for clear communication. In a reverberant environment or open office area, a headset with built-in microphone will filter distracting background noise.
- Video–A good quality, properly positioned camera is critical for effective collaboration. Invest in a high quality auxiliary unit rather than using the built-in camera that restricts control and image resolution. The camera should be placed where the user is focused, just above the monitor’s content for a near-to-natural experience. This will simulate looking into the camera. Common mistakes include mounting the camera below the screen which produces an unnatural angle or mounting it on a monitor other than the one hosting the content, showing you looking away from the camera.
Trial Run Evaluate the quality of the experience by taking it for a trial run. Most platforms offer the ability to record your meeting, giving you the opportunity to view the meeting as if on the far side. Record sessions using various scenarios – both while the room is quiet and when things from across the house are active – pets, HVAC, washing machine, etc. Type on the keyboard to gauge the sound level of keyclicks, assess how the background looks and adjust camera position and lighting to simulate a face-to-face meeting. Getting started requires thoughtful design and know-how, but it’s an investment that will be realized through effective collaboration and increased productivity for years to come. As experts in both the technologies and design aspects of this rich, residential/professional hybrid environment, Logic Integration can help you with the infrastructure and hardware requirements and work with your interior design professional to create the ideal remote workplace.
17 Stats About Remote Work in 2020
Today’s mobile workforce: any time, any place, The Telegraph
How to Design the Ideal Home Office, Entrepreneur
American Workplace Changing at a Dizzying Pace, Gallup News