Is Your Home Office Background Video-Ready? 10 Things To Check In Advance

Is Your Home Office Background Video-Ready? 10 Things To Check In Advance

If you’re working from home, you probably spend most of the day looking at your computer screen. Your focus is on the work you see right in front of you. However, when it’s time to jump on a video call, you’re suddenly reminded of what’s behind you—and what other people see.

Your home office background background can make a big difference in how you’re perceived on a video call for a professional purpose, such as a sales call, business meeting, or job interview. Before your next call, scan your workspace to make sure you don’t have any of the following ten common items in your home office video background.

10 Potential Distractions In Your Home Office Background

1. Doors & Closets

Every room has at least one door. If your desk is against the wall—and your webcam is facing the rest of the room—there’s probably one behind you.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with having a door in your background, unless you’re absolutely sure no one will use it. With so many families in close quarters these days, it’s only a matter of time before someone accidentally walks in during your call. To avoid this possibility, take a quick survey of the room for other potential angles.

The same goes for closet doors. If you have no other option, make sure the door is closed. You want whatever personal items that do show up in your background to be carefully curated—not randomly tossed in over the space of the past few weeks.

2. Political, Athletic & National Statements

Many of us have causes we champion or organizational affiliations that we’re passionate about. While these things may be a big part of our identity, they needn’t be broadcast in a professional setting..

If you have pictures, posters, or other items in your background that represent a pet cause, consider how it may be interpreted by others. For example, it may not be beneficial to have multiple pro-America signage visible if you’re interacting with (or selling to) international organizations. Even if the item is seemingly innocuous and unlikely to offend anyone, ask yourself if it positively contributes to the image you want to convey.

3. Bookshelves

Bookshelves are common in home offices, and they can look great. But keep in mind that when you have books in your background, it’s natural for a viewer to both scan the titles and assume you endorse and read them.

If while on video you’re creating content to support a personal brand, it’s a good idea to carefully curate the books on your bookshelf to help subtly convey the message you want to communicate.

But most of us don’t even need to go that far. Instead, just scan the books to make sure there isn’t anything that goes against the image you are presenting, and make sure you’re comfortable being associated with the titles displayed. You likely won’t have a chance to explain their presence (you got a certain book as a gift or are using it for reference, for example) during your meeting.

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4. Your Bed

Thanks to COVID-19, many people are working remotely for the first time. Those who live in a small space or don’t have a dedicated home office often end up using their bedroom as their office.

Bedrooms are intimate places. You might be comfortable with your own personal space, but that doesn’t mean whoever you’re meeting with is, especially if he or she is a professional acquaintance. If you must make the call from your bedroom, avoid having your bed in your video background. Instead, try to set your desk so that your webcam is facing the wall.

5. Clutter

When you have clutter—laundry, extra furniture, piles of papers, etc.—in your home office background, you’re sending any or all of these messages:

  • You’re disorganized.
  • You don’t pay attention to detail.
  • The meeting you’re on just isn’t that important.

To avoid having messy personal space in their video background, many people use virtual backgrounds supplied by their video conferencing software. However, virtual backgrounds sometimes have technical issues, and won’t necessarily solve the problem. Clutter has a simple fix: Just turn on your webcam and move any clutter that appears in the background outside the camera frame.

6. Windows

Having a window in your home office video background might not seem like a problem, but it is for one simple reason: Our webcams aren’t very smart.

In order to calibrate the lighting for your video, your webcam looks for the brightest area in the frame and then adjusts the rest of the image based on that. When there is a window behind you with natural light coming through, that becomes the brightest thing in the picture. As a result, you end up going almost completely dark. So unless you want to look like one of those shadowy silhouettes speaking as an anonymous source in a documentary, avoid having a window in your home office video background.

7. The Ceiling

Many people do video calls from their laptops rather than a static desktop sitting flat on a workstation. Laptops are great because of their mobility, but consider the angle in which your webcam is pointing. When your laptop is placed lower than eye level, you need to point the screen up toward your face; this puts the angle of your webcam facing up.

Looking up at someone from a lower position is a strange perspective for a viewer. It feels uncomfortable because it’s uncommon in real life. (Most of the time you have that perspective, you’re in a prone position and there’s a medical problem.) Also, when your camera is pointing up, the ceiling becomes part of your background. Since we rarely engage with ceilings, this is a distracting perspective for the viewer and can easily become the focal point on your call. Unnatural perspectives take the viewer’s attention away from what they should be focused on: your conversation.

8. Your Chair

Large executive chairs were originally designed to look powerful and dominant in a boardroom. If you have one of these modern day thrones, you probably look (and feel) great in real life. However, on video, the effect doesn’t quite translate. Instead, it looks like a vague growth is erupting from the back of your head.

While video conferences are closer to being in-person than other modes of communication, they’re still virtual. You need to simulate the experience you want someone to have if you were meeting in the physical world. Large chairs are a great example of something that comes across differently in real life vs. on camera.

9. Headsets & Microphones

While an external headset can improve the audio on your video conferences, they may present an issue visually. You want your meeting to feel as personal and natural as possible; headsets remind everyone you’re doing something technical, and can detract from the rapport you want to establish.

The same goes for microphones in the foreground of your image. If you’re in a one-on-one call, the microphone becomes a barrier that imposes a sense of distance between you and the person on the other side. However, if you’re doing a presentation rather than a one-one-call, this doesn’t apply. In that case, having a microphone or headset signals authority and lets people know you’re the speaker.

10. Pets

This may be a personal pet peeve, but I’ve found that having pets appear in your home office background is a distraction (cute and fluffy though it may be). Easily-avoidable distractions like these detract from the focus of your meeting, and, in my view, show a lack of respect for the person on the other side of the call.

The best way to avoid distractions and bad impressions on video meetings is to simplify your home office background as much as possible. To ensure the best presentation during your calls, check out the Anyvoo webcam backdrop. It’s designed specifically for video calls from your home, and it’s size, easy setup, and design options give you total control of your background—no matter what else is happening in your environment. Start configuring yours today!