This year has seen many people who used to go into an office every day, now working from home for the foreseeable future. For many who don’t already have a home office, creating a private, professional looking space where you can work and host meetings all day can be a challenge.   With people creating wish lists for the holidays and having some spare time to set up an ideal space at home they can call their home office, we wanted to create a guide to help people get a professional and personalized background view for Zoom meetings. Additionally, for people living with others, we wanted to find a way to keep their space quiet and free of noisy interruptions happening in the rest of the house.  

Creating A Professional, Personalized Home Office  

Pick the Right Room 

It’s important to pick a space for your home office that won’t just be a comfortable and productive spot to work in all day. You also have to consider how the room will look and sound for meetings. By picking one central spot in your house that works for both functions, you can dedicate this space as your workroom and implement permanent or semi-permanent changes to the space. By having a dedicated workspace, it’ll also aid in productivity when you’re in the space, keeping it separate from the rest of your house that is meant for relaxing, such as a living room or bedroom.  

Get Rid of Any Distractions 

In a dream world, our homes would always be clean, spotless and ready to host. The reality is, most homes get messy and cleaning every day before work isn’t ideal. We’re not proposing your entire home is always spotless but try to ensure the area of your home that can be seen on camera is. Get rid of dirty dishes, laundry, garbage, cobwebs or anything else that may make your background look anything less than professional.   Due to space restrictions, some people may have to set up their workspace in their bedrooms, basements or living rooms. That is okay, just make sure any décor or decoration that is in view is appropriate for work. You may love Kill Bill, but that doesn’t mean you should have a Kill Bill poster in the background of your work calls! Consider altering the space, at least for the time being, of anything that may send the wrong message to your co-workers.  

Customize Your Background 

Realistically, many people will be spending the next few weeks to months working from home. So, if you can, take the time and make the effort to make your space yours, the same way one may decorate their desk in the office. While it won’t hurt to attend meetings with your background being a blank wall, why not let your personality stand out a bit in your background?  We’re not proposing you create a distracting collage of all your favourite things, but incorporating a bookshelf, some wall art or an interesting sculpture can add personality and pizazz to your Zoom screen.   The distance between your wall and your desk will determine how much of your wall is available in the background. An ideal position would be to have your desk 3-8 feet away from your wall or space you want to show off, to allow enough background to be visible to show off your decorations.  

Lighting Is Very Important 

Good lighting during your work calls is very important. You want the people you’re meeting with to be able to see you – which means no overexposure or dark shadows. Natural light is always best when possible, but you don’t want the natural light coming from a window behind, as it’ll leave you in the dark. Artificial light from above works well. If you only have light hitting you from in front or behind you, consider adding another light to the opposite side to balance them out.  

Consider Where You Want Your Webcam 

Many laptop or desktop computers now come with webcams in the computer, however you can always buy a different webcam to use, should you want your camera situated at a different height or angle than your laptop’s generic setting.   You can also lift your computer using computer stands, or large books to get your desired angle. It’s important to have your camera at or as near as you can to your eyeline. Slightly above your eyeline will be a much more flattering angle than anything lower than your eyeline, but don’t raise your computer too high, or it won’t seem natural in conversation.  

No Decent Background Available? 

That’s okay. Most of these video chat apps such as Zoom actually offer a built-in green screen option. Basically, what this means, is you can pick whatever background you want from Google Images or even your own photo library to make your background. This isn’t a perfect feature, and can glitch if you move around a lot, but in a pinch this setting can work to establish a professional, private background option.  

How to Minimize Background Noise During Meetings 

If you live with other people, especially small children or other people also hosting meetings via their computers, keeping your space quiet can be quite a challenge. You don’t want your coworkers to hear your children playing in the other room, the home phone ringing, or your dog barking at the mailman. So, what can be done about that?  First, it’s important to note that there are two different types of sounds: airborne and structural. Airborne is noise that passes through the air, like most household sounds. Structural sounds are vibrations that get passed through objects or the structure of your home, such as footsteps, a knock at the door, hammers banging, or other noises frequently found on a construction site.   Many of the more effective solutions are decisions that need to be made when the foundation of the home is created. For instance, choosing noise-reducing drywall, insulating interior walls, and floating floors. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done in the home you’re already living in. There are lots of options out there, which we’ll identify below.  

Softening Surfaces  

Sound bounces on hard surfaces such as hardwood floors or glass. If the noise you’re trying to minimize comes from above, such as footsteps or kids running around on the top floor, consider purchasing carpets or rugs to put on the floor above you. Adding things like window trimmings to your window, such as curtains, can help soften noise coming from the street into your home.  

Sealing Gaps 

Noise takes the path of least resistance. So, if you have wide cracks under your doors, windows or other areas that keep your room separated from the rest of the house, you’re going to get noise transfer. Sealing the gaps of your room can really help to quieten it.  

Can’t Focus with The Noise?

This tip won’t help you in Zoom meetings but can improve productivity and focus for the rest of your day. If you’re having a hard time paying attention to your work with all the other sounds happening in your home, consider a white noise machine. Noise-cancelling headphones playing white noise can really help to tune out the noises of life, allowing you to focus on your work.  

What’s the Difference Between Soundproofing and Sound Absorption?

Soundproofing is done with sound insulating materials that prevent sound from leaving or entering a room. It’s done with solid and heavy materials that physically block the sound from going through the walls or ceilings. You’ll find soundproofing in movie theatres, concert halls, music studios, and other places frequently blasting music or sound.  Sound absorption controls how much noise can get into a room by basically absorbing the noise. This is done using soft materials that soak up sound as it hits a surface. This can be done by using acoustic panels and screens on your walls or ceiling.   Whether you’re someone who loves the comfort and convenience of working from home, or someone who misses the peace and quiet of the office, hopefully these tips will help you create a workspace in your home that works for you.