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Be well lit on your video calls

Be well lit on your video calls

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Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

In the era of video conference calls, practically every work desk has become a mini-studio setup equipped with web cameras and headsets interfaced with an array of collaborative platforms. Lighting, despite being just as important to your presence presentation, often tends to be an after-thought as evidenced by silhouetted faces and harsh shadows among your meeting’s gallery view.

Of course, with physical space permitting you could look into some Softbox Lighting Kits to Zoom your way to the Most Photogenic Teams Player. Indeed I have found such lighting kits fun to use and are of great value, but understandably might not be appropriate for a smaller dedicated workspace.

At minimum for overall reduced eye strain is to have a desk lamp to illuminate your general working area, as well as doubling as a light source for your video feed.

I tend to favor the articulating arm kind of lamps as they can be positioned downward to a specific area of interest to aid in minute tasks like PCB assembly or focused reading. OR to borrow from photography practices, can be aimed towards the ceiling to produce a soft bounced light effect. The gentler, well defused lighting avoids that “deer in the headlights” look from having a major light source pointed straight at you.

A more directed video light can be used to fill in the shadows that naturally occur on your face while on camera. This compact, yet versatile Neewer kit has been my battle station’s MVP.

This video light is USB (USB-A) powered and with its minimal power draw should work with practically any computer or mains USB port/charger. The included tripod is height and tilt adjustable.

Best of all, the light output is dimmable via an in-line controller to let you dial in the fill light to match ambient conditions.

Unless you’re going for that streaming gamer vibe, or just going to use a software superimposed background effect, you won’t want to forget about background lighting if your room is dim during your conference. An overhead light can be switched on if needed, or positioning a floor lamp in a corner to help.

Cheers to improving your presented image while reporting out your project progress and status in the morning, and showing off the kids brightly in the evening family call.

New to full-time remote work? Mind these two words.

New to full-time remote work? Mind these two words.

If you’re reading this in March of 2020, you might be working remotely if your type of work permits such work arrangement. Generally the “work from home” conjurers up the image of sitting in bed, on the living room sofa, or at the kitchen counter. For those who work from home on an incidental basis (say, just to care for family illness), opening up the laptop and punching away at the dining table between clearing the dishes is passable for the limited time.

For remote work on a regular basis, it is in your and your productivity’s interest to setup a dedicated workspace.

While nice, a spare bedroom turned into a home office is not necessary. And even so, it’s not the bulletproof distraction-free environment as Professor Robert Kelly can confirm. Just a place that you can set aside for ‘exclusive work use’ is sufficient if it can contain the tools and instruments you need for being online, and that space can be left alone when not working.

Generally a proper desk or an available table positioned at a slightly less trafficked part of the residence will do. (The mahogany table in the dining room that’s only used on Thanksgiving and Christmas would qualify). Adding a low bookshelf can add a virtual wall to enclose an otherwise open space if necessary.

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

The two immediate benefits of a dedicated workspace is

  1. It presents an opportunity for physical separation when working/not-working.
  2. The bench setup is not shuffled around due to other normal home events such as meal times.

The physical separation is important as its really easy to be distracted from work, or not fully unplugging after quitting time. In addition, you being in the dedicated workspace signals others in the home that “you’re at work”.

Often is the case that work projects don’t finish at end-of-business-day and continue the next work day. While you’ll prudently power-off instruments and stow away potentially hazardous items while off of work, the dedicated workspace saves you from daily full setup and tear-down so you don’t have to start every morning unpacking the office station.

If you’d like some ideas: here’s my current battle station, which happens to be in a corner of an otherwise unused guest bedroom:

It’s not always this tidy…

–As you can guess from the nature of this site, my work involves (small) electronics, firmware, and software.

If you’re tight on space, or just need more room, you might consider a closet office such as my other setup when I used to run two stations.

Adoption and office-culture acceptance of remote work has historically varied but trended upwards in past years. Recent global events have pushed the remote work arrangement to the forefront, and various research has indicated mutual benefits for companies and staff.

As working remotely is now in the spotlight, lets join together show the world that as the sh!t. hits the fan, we can still get sh!t done!

For more tips on successfully working from home, check out: