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Setting Up a Remote-Work Home Office

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Ryan Murphy
March 12, 2020

The option to work remotely was already becoming popular. It’s necessary – even expected – to attract and hold onto young talent.

But the recent public health scare has caused a scramble among businesses that have never had a remote work force. In some cases, people NEED to work from home right now, and they’re finding that taking a laptop home is not enough.  You need the means to not only check in, but to collaborate as you would in person. It’s imperative to both productivity and culture. The office exists for collaboration and accountability.

Here’s the long and short of it: if remote work is necessary, remote workers need to optimize the space they work in. They need a home office – even if that’s just a decent setup at the kitchen table. And most importantly, you need a solution to collaborate with co-workers.

The basics

Video conferencing technology is what makes it possible for employees to work from home. Period.

In its modern form it lets you meet face-to-face instantly and at any time of day. You can use it to share and annotate content as if you were working side by side. And thanks to modern cloud conferencing, it allows you to use any internet-connect, video capable device to join a meeting.

So let’s start there as we discuss what you need to facilitate video conferencing from a home office:

A video platform

You need a video solution that allows everyone and anyone to connect to a video call. Ideally, it needs to provide:

  • Interoperability – the ability to bridge the technological gap between different kinds of devices, including browsers.
  • Content Share – share your screen or specific apps so you can present and collaborate on materials.
  • Ease of use – let’s face it – if it ain’t easy, it won’t be used/adopted. It’s got to be simple and intuitive.
  • Security we’re talking about something that offers encryption if necessary, but generally something that does not require downloading or installing anything on your hardware.
  • Quality – something that can work within your available bandwidth without dropping or stuttering.
  • Optional: Integration – say your company uses Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business to stay connected generally – choosing a video platform that integrates with these will allow Teams or Skype users to connect outside of their network, AND allows them to connect with people using video room systems and phones.

A video-capable device with audio

Four stipulations here: it needs a camera, a mic, audio and internet connection. Provided it has those four things, it can be used connect to a cloud video meeting. This does mean, of course, that you COULD use your smartphone. And you could. It would connect and you can use it. But it’s a pain to use as your main video connection to your workplace.

A lot of people will have a camera, mic, and audio integrated into their home computer. It’ll do the trick – they can connect via browser and have everything they need.

But it COULD be better, and if you’re a professional or C-Level who will rely on high-quality video and sound in their meetings, you may want to consider optimizing your home office for perfect video calls.

Optimizing

You have a lot of control over the audio and video quality in a call. This comes down to the type of equipment you use, having the bandwidth to support it, and ensuring that you damped the acoustics in your work space.

REAL conferencing equipment

An external camera is going to make the biggest difference here. The integrated one on your computer is probably, when compared to conferencing cameras, pretty middling. Consider something like the Logitech C920, an HD Pro camera that blows the typical integrated camera out of the water.

Sound-wise, a good headset goes a long way. Might seem like overkill at home, of course, unless you need to cancel out some noise – my dogs snore even while awake, for example. A headset can help you better, and there’s less risk of picking up collateral noise.

The next – and arguably more exciting – step up is a conferencing system like the Poly Studio X 30. While there’s a significant jump in price, you get:

  • An integrated UHD (4K) camera, microphone, and sound bar;
  • Noise-cancelling technology that filters ambient noises like air conditioning, typing and similar;
  • A wider field of view with a camera that automatically zooms in on the speaker and follows them around if they move;
  • A simple plug-and-play set-up, with an online directory to place calls from when registered to a service like RP1Rooms.

Systems like the Studio X are the ultimate professional conferencing system for the home office. It’s worth a look if you plan to spend a lot of time working and meeting from there.

Bandwidth

Cloud conferencing services will often offer templates for varying levels of audio and video quality. They do this to ensure that, on the one hand, they have a setting so that folks in low- or spotty-bandwidth environments can connect to a meeting without jitters, packet-loss (when it looks all pixelated) or disconnection. At the other end there are templates that support HD A/V – and we’re talking support for up to 4K, 60FPS video.

So if you want ultra-high-quality – both to see it on your end and to send it – you need to have a connection bandwidth to support it. This kind of info is usually available from your solution provider and will vary a little bit between providers. But at the top end you can count on needing a 4-5Mbps connection to support 4K without running into trouble.

Acoustics

To capture and send the best possible sound, you’ll have to dampen the acoustics in the space you’re meeting in. An empty room will echo, and microphones love to pick that up. It sounds terrible.

Luckily this is easy enough to do. Plants, drapes, furniture, carpeting – anything you can add to the room to break up and absorb those sound waves. You could go as far as panelling the walls, but that gets expensive and is hard to make look good. Better to just “home” the place up.

Working remotely is here to stay one way or the other.

It’s worth taking the time to set up a space that is conducive to making high-quality video calls all of the time – it will be necessary to stay in constant contact with collaborators. Ideally there will be no difference in the amount of interaction you have with your peers, and the better your set-up, the more natural the experience will feel.

But at least now you get to do it from the comfort of your home.

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