6 Tips for Working from Home
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CTC&G asked Walt Zerbe, of CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) and co-host of “The Media Podcast,” to talk about how to improve your work-from-home experience.
The freshness of working from home has long worn off, but a gnawing feeling of doing it better—may have crept in with winter around the corner. Besides, do you really want to be “that person” on a video call with blippy video, crackly audio and unflattering lighting? To resuscitate your virtual call image, I offer you a few experience-tested solutions—in order of priority—to help you put your best self forward every time you dial in.
CONNECTION IS CRUCIAL
I beat this drum over and over again—as do the fine professionals CEDIA representatives who handle all manner of home network installations: A strong, wired network connection is A MUST. This means an ethernet line and switch hooked into all critical components like your laptop or desktop. Wired works best. If you must be wireless, make sure you have good coverage in the places you will be remote and make sure the wired connection to your wireless components is strong and reliable.
AUDIO CLARITY IS KING
Though quality options exist, most people screw up when it comes to their communications audio. For starters: Put away the Bluetooth tech—headsets, mics, earpods, airpods… all of them. The reliability factor of Bluetooth is just not comparable to an honest-to-gosh, wired USB microphone or headset. Secondly, don’t use the microphone that’s built into your laptop: Think of it more for convenience than quality. Really nerdy pro tip: You’ll get best results from microphones with a cardioid or hypercardioid pattern. Omni-directional patterns, which I suggest you avoid, will let through loads of unwanted noise.
EXTERNAL SPEAKERS ARE THE ANSWER
You likely know this, but it bears repeating: Don’t rely on on-board computer speakers. Do yourself a favor and invest in powered, USB speakers. This advice applies to conference calls, but it will also help improve your quality of life while at home: Listening to music, YouTube clips or movies as clearly as possible is a surefire wellness and work performance booster. Need a break? Need to chill? It’ll always sound better with a nice pair of external speakers.
ALL ABOUT THE CAMERA ANGLE
Enhance your appearance by investing in a solid external camera that can zoom, auto-white balance, and maybe even one that tracks your movement. You can’t tune an onboard camera and you can’t place it at a better, higher angle. Practical pro tip: Lose the double chin view with a camera you can place high above your monitor. You look better when you’re looking up.
INVEST IN GOOD LIGHTING
Be it a light ring, a bar-style light, a cube-shaped light, or any other source that’s not built into the computer: Lighting is critical, especially a light source that allows you to adjust the brightness level. Bonus points if you can adjust the hue and if it won’t throw glare into your eyes on-screen. Bespectacled pro tip: If you wear glasses, offset your camera angle and have your light straight-on to reduce lens glare.
Reduce the echoing and slapback sounds that plague calls by researching specific products designed to cut unwanted feedback issues. Or work with your materials in your room: Drapes, carpet and upholstered furniture, for example, will all absorb sound and increase clarity. Upgrading any single aspect helps. However, combining these solutions will heighten the performance and appearance of your work-from-home scenario. Need help on the technical side? The CEDIA Finder Service can locate a nearby home technology integrator to help square away your home network.
The print version of this article appears with the headline: Smart Home.
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