How to Look Good From the Chest Up for Virtual Meetings
We’re working from home more and more these days thanks to improved telecommunication technology, more lenient approaches to what a work day should look like and you know, infectious disease pandemics. According to a recent Gallup survey, 43 percent of Americans occasionally work from home, which is up four percent from 2012.
Additionally, Quartz provides U.S. Census data which indicates 5.2 percent of U.S. workers worked solely at home in 2017 — that’s almost 8 million people, the size of Manhattan.
RELATED: How to Work From Home Efficiently
All healthy homebodies rejoice. But, staying at home all day trying to work may be a slippery slope when it comes to remembering you are still part of an organization which might require you to see people from time to time.
If you’ve been working from home for a while, you’ve likely already figured out some of the tricks to pulling off a professional look in between loads of laundry — actually turning your camera on for meetings is a big one to help maintain an interpersonal connection with your co-workers — but if this is a new situation for you, we are here to fast track your office-appropriate look (at least on camera) to ensure you maintain the most polished look you can, without actually having to put on your suit.
Hit the Showers
No two ways about it, you still need to get ready for work in the morning. Sure, if you’re not going to be seeing anyone — virtually or in person — no one will know if you skip a day, but if you have plans on getting in front of the camera to call in for a meeting, you should assume everyone calling in will expect you to look like you would walking down the hall. That means take yourself a shower — or at least wash your face. Sticking to your normal routine will help set your mindset to "work mode."
Just having a simple routine can also provide some solid health benefits. According to experts at Northwestern Medicine, "routines offer a way to promote health and wellness through structure and organization." The psychological benefits of showering and getting ready for work (even if that work takes place in your home office) can play into how you conduct yourself in virtual meetings and throughout the day.
If you’re one of those guys who takes great pride (and great time) on your hair in the morning, you might be leaving that off your morning list when there is no one else around to be impressed by it. But, when the time comes for your Zoom meeting, and you have to hop on the screen at the last minute, you might need to MacGyver your mane into something that looks more boardroom and less bedhead. Keep that in mind when you start your work day.
Have you ever watched cable news at night and wondered if those anchors are wearing full suits or just jackets? It’s one of those questions we may never know, but if we had to guess, we would say probably not. So if they can do it, why can’t you, right? Well, while we fully support your decisions, whatever they may be from the waist down, from your waist on up, you need to be office-appropriate.
What you need to wear when you conference in is a button front shirt, it's that simple. It needs to be clean and comfortable (because cozy comfort is certainly a perk of working from home) and wrinkle-resistant so you can go from lounging on the laptop to pulled together for your virtual presentation in literal seconds. If you are looking to add some to your new work-from-home-wardrobe, a dress-ish shirt like this is comfortable enough to be in all day, ridiculously easy to care for and classic enough to wear to the office when, and if, you go back.
Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist tells Forbes: “When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it's 'professional work attire' or 'relaxing weekend wear,' so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning ... It's the reason why we feel fitter in our sports clothes, or more professional in work wear."
So you’re fresh and clean and ready to call in. What else could possibly be left? Eye contact. Sitting alone in a home office day after day (after day after day) might leave some missing actual face-to-face contact. The next best thing after genuine facetime at the office with coworkers is genuine eye contact with them from home. Just like any meeting in “real life,” maintaining eye contact and being alert will help you listen and in turn, make sure you’re actually heard.
Don't believe us? Various studies have shown that there is proof more eye contact means significantly more memory retention from those you were meeting with. Since working from home still isn't every boss' cup of tea, remembering what was said in a meeting may play a bigger role now more than ever.
(Don’t) Focus on the Background
How often do you watch the news and see some guy who noticed the camera, try to claim his time in the spotlight? It’s distracting then, and it’s distracting when your roommate walks by in his underwear or your dog curls up behind you to take a nap as well (although some of us might be willing to give the dog a pass). Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Keep your background movement-free.
When it comes to the actual space behind you. think of yourself as a YouTuber setting up your backdrop — it doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate, but instead, it has to be just a simple background. Movie posters? Nah. Lava lamps? No thanks. You bongs? You get what we’re saying. Find yourself a clean wall and a plant. That’s all you need.
Background presentation is so important, one of the most popular cloud-based video conferencing companies, Zoom even offers users the ability to upload and display an image or video just in case you don't have a clean wall or room to use. This requires a green screen, which thanks to the booming YouTuber culture today, these have become less expensive than you might think. If working from home is your new norm, and you don't feel like dropping coin on a fancy home office, this might be the way to go.
Find Your Light
Now that you’re all framed up, what’s the point of a great shot if no one can see all the hard work you put into looking so damn good? It’s time to find your light. How, you might ask? Step one, no backlight. Your perfect spot is not in front of your perfect window, because you’ll be too dark and it will be too light. Instead, find balance.
Don’t know where to start? Try sitting across from that window with the good light, since natural light is always the best. If windows aren’t in plentiful supply, aim for warm light sources that will diffuse harsh light bulbs helping to minimize stark shadows and high contrasting spots. This is all to say, avoid overhead lighting. It’s not flattering and adding a couple of inexpensive lamps to your workspace isn’t too difficult and doesn’t have to be costly.
RELATED: 8 Tips for Better Video Conference Calls
But this optimal lighting isn't just for those looking at you through the screen, the right lighting choices helps you focus when working outside of a professionally lit environment as well. As written in the Harvard Business Review, the No. 1 perk for employees is natural light, and research by Cornell University Professor Dr. Alan Hedge good natural light at work (or home when working) can substantially improve your health. In fact, this research concluded that workers in daylight office environments reported a 51 percent drop in the incidence of eyestrain, a 56 percent reduction in drowsiness and a 63 percent drop in the incidence of headaches.
Coincidence natural light is also the most flattering when getting on a work video call? We think not. Here are some good options from our sister site Mashable if you're in the market for some daylight you can plug in from nine-to-five.
You Might Also Dig:
Best Home Office Chairs The Best Podcasts to Increase Productivity Make Your Cubicle Smarter