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Home Office Setup (For People Doing Video Calls All Day)


Neville

One of the most important things I personally use in business is video calls.

As you can see by this scientific chart, video calling for work has gone up massively:

video call increase

The one thing about video calls is that it's changed the way your office should be setup!

Basically all the cool looking stuff in your office should be BEHIND YOU when you're doing video calls.  I call this "The Reverse Office."

 

The ↳Reverse↵ Office:

At one time you would decorate IN FRONT your desk. You'd put all your chachkies in front of you so you'd have something fun to look at while working.

Now I think it's more important to have a "Reverse Office" which showcases all that stuff BEHIND the desk so your webcam can see it.

For example this guy took some care to setup what's BEHIND him so it looks nice for people on video calls:

reverse-office-screen.png

This is a "Reverse Office" where all the pretty decorations are BEHIND the camera.

Home offices used to be private, now they are semi-public because of video calls.

I've gone through several versions of home offices over the years, and here are some of the important rules I've learned about home offices:

  • Have one-touch lighting.
  • Have place for others to sit.
  • Control for echo.
  • Don't decorate TOO much behind you or it distracts from your face.

I'll go over these lessons below.

 

Getting The Lighting Right (Important)!

One of the biggest problems I had with calls was getting the lighting right when starting a video call.

If someone pays me hundreds of dollars an hour to speak with them, I at least want to make it look like I put some effort into getting the video quality decent.

I used to (and still do) use these portable battery operated LED lights to help with lighting:

led light clamps

I mostly just set the lights on my desk aiming at the wall for extra light, I rarely use the clamps except when traveling.

It’s just two Aputure LED Lights with two Dinkum Systems Clamps.  You don't need to plug them in, and you can just set them wherever. I generally aim them at a white wall and the reflected light is more than enough to light my face up.

I learned that aiming them directly at my face was a little too intensely bright and very distracting.

I also take these with me when I'm out of town so I can light up wherever I'm working.

In a previous office setup if I wanted a "city scape" background the natural lighting caused a real problem as it backlit my face so much you couldn't see me.

Adding some portable lighting to the desk solved this problem beautifully!

backlit nev   Laptop Desk Amaran Lighting

The difference adding lighting makes!

The only problem with "adding light when needed" was that you had to set up the lights each time. So for offices I now like to have a setup where I push one button and the lighting is done:

 

 

Have A One-Touch Lighting System:

Couch Lighting Phillips Hue On Off Gif

Even though I loved having little portable lights handy, I'd have to take them out, set them up, and then re-charge them after every use. This added an extra layer of work for each video call.

This is what lead me to my new favorite products (I swear I didn't mean this to be a promotion):

Phillips Hue products.

I already had a Phillips Hue Hub and some lights around my place, so I decided to use the Phillips line for the office.

I setup 4 Phillips Play Lights around the office:

Home Office Lighting Setup  home-office-lighting5.jpg

2 lights behind the desk. 2 lights behind the couch:

I also have a cool little Philips Hue Smart Dimmer switch that controls the light like a normal switch (rather than having to tell Siri to control the lights).

Phillips Hue Light Switch

It sticks on the wall (no holes), and the remote magnetically detaches if you want.

When I walk in the office, I simply push the "ON" button, and all 4 lights automatically turn on to their optimal levels. If you push the "ON" button again it will cycle through my other light settings (Bright Yellow, White Video Call Lighting, Relax Mode, Cherry Blossom Color).

For an additional boost of light I use this Brightech Sky Lamp, which is a simple lamp with 3 brightness settings. I plugged that into a smart plug so it turns on along with the rest of my Hue lights (I like it because it retains the last brightness setting you select).

This really adds a good bit of extra lighting:

lighting-office lamp brightech

Having the lighting already setup when I walk into the office has saved me a massive amount of physical and mental energy, making video calls far easier.

 

Decorating BEHIND The Screen:

I suck at decorating, but I "worked backwards" and decided on the functionality of this specific home office before I bought anything.

My wishlist for the office was:

  • One touch lighting (Phillips Hue setup).
  • Turns into an extra guest room (the sofa converts into a queen bed).
  • Simple background (sofa with lighting, framed Ogilvy ads, and a plant).
  • Minimize echo (I requested this room have carpet instead of hardwood on move-in).
  • Space for others to work (sofa and extra desk/lighting/power for a guest).

From these specs I drew out a sketch of what it would look like:

Home office setup drawing

The only thing that didn't make the cut on the final product was the chalk wall.

I found a chalk wall at a friends office, and it really made lighting much harder with the black background.

A black colored wall absorbs A LOT of light, and since my hair is black, and my face is brown, having a black background would require A LOT MORE LIGHTING to light me up properly. For this reason I took the route of least resistance and left the wall it's white color.

The final product looks like:

Home Office Lighting Setup

It's simple, comfy, and does the job well!

When I flick on a video call, it looks like this through my webcam:

Home Office Lighting Setup Neville

Here's what the office looks like when you enter:

Home Office Lighting Setup

There's a small bookshelf in the corner, and I generally leave the blinds closed since I like controlling the lighting.

This room had a sliding pocket closet, and I always hate closets with sliding doors.....so I removed the doors and put a perfectly sized desk inside of it instead.

The closet storage rack is a dead giveaway this was once a closet 😂

home-office-lighting2.jpg

The lighting is surprisingly difficult to capture on camera, so it seems like it's SUPER BRIGHT behind that desk, but in reality the lighting is very soft and pleasant. I just somehow couldn't capture that on camera.

Home Office Lighting Setup Second Desk

That couch turns into a queen sized bed with one motion if I need an extra guest room. There's a nice picture of Austin hanging up as well as a dry erase board (crucial for any home office).

And of course I hung up several of my blown up Ogilvy ads over the couch.

home-office-lighting5.jpg

 

See a VIDEO TOUR of this setup:

I also do all my Copywriting Course Member Office Hours from here (if ya ever wanna speak with me directly from this very office).

Anywho hope you enjoyed this little tour of my current home office, and hope you found some useful tips in it!

neville-signature-sincerely-pen.png

 

P.S. Here's all the products shown here:

 

 

P.P.S. Do you have any good tips for a home office? Any useful routines? Please share them in the comments!

 


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Those lights really add a nice ambiance. Great job, Neville.
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Have you A/B tested whether having a more 'interesting' office aids you in videoconference with coworkers? Wow! I sometimes work in my dining room for a change in scenery and now I'm considering having my bookshelf behind me, rather than the one painting and a wall.

Frankly, having something interesting to look at has always allowed me to think. But, now that I think of it, I often ask my coworkers about cool their cool tchotchke and it helps with bonding.

Thanks for writing this article. This is not something I've thought about...

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I like how you use the play lights! For those who are easily cold, I also recommend putting a foot warmer below your desk.
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Hey there :)

Great article, a lot of useful things I've never thought about!

One thing I started doing a few months ago was sticking googly eyes next to my camera (you know those jiggly plastic eyes you use for crafting?). I had noticed that in a video call I would look at the screen to see the persons face, but through this, I never really looked directly into the camera and it always seemed like I was looking down. Then I bought a big pair of those eyes and stuck them on top of my laptop, and it helped me to look into the camera more often :D

It's not a huge thing, but I feel like I am more professional with them and the person I'm speaking to gets the feeling of eye contact. I started with this when I had a job interview via video call, and since then I'm a fan of this silly little trick...

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Guest Cal Tingey

Posted

I have a motorized desk (sit-to-stand)  and realized it is important to be aware of what your camera picks us when the desk is in standing position rather than just sitting position.  I have filing cabinets behind my desk and if I leave papers on the top of the cabinets you can see them when I raise my desk to standing position - oops!

Cal

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Guest Cal Tingey

Posted

Delete this comment after you've reviewed it and made a change.  You need to change the word "look" to "like" in the paragraph right under the 4th to the last picture.  The paragraph says, "There's a small bookshelf inthe corner, and I generally leave the blinds closed since I look (should be "like") controlling the lighting.

I already made another comment on your post - great job.  Also I didn't realize that Tchotchke has an other spelling "chachkies."  As long as Noah Kagan's mom says this is acceptable I'm fine with it - lol.

Cal

 

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Great notes on the lighting. I think that's the biggest key to managing good video calls.

Probably the best tip I have is putting up some stylish light colored curtains over the open closets in my office. They reflect the light well, have a nice pattern, and cover the 300+ books and extra music equipment I keep in the closets.

I also have several Wemo outlets for kicking on my lights and speakers. I have a google assistant speaker that I tell to "Turn on studio" as soon as I enter. It's kinda boss like I'm Picard giving commands to my computer.

I use a SAD light behind my monitors as it helps with the Portland winters and adds the needed lighting. Plus it's super modisch. Ja wohl!

I had back issues in my 20s due to sitting all day at a computer. I have a sit/stand desk that I really like, which makes it nice when I feel that soreness in my lumbar, and standing on the plushy IKEA rug I got makes standing very comfortable.

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Guest Chad Chuckston

Posted

Does your home office also happen to be located at the back of your house?

Because your new setup looks like a great backroom casting couch for clients requiring solid copywriting. After nailing them hard and continuously with questions to get the right wording and context, I'm sure the fold out bed comes in handy so they can have a short nap before round two starts with honing up and spanking their landing page/copy into top shape

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You were reading my mind, Neville! OMG. Are you one of FBI spies who scanning all my content? Jk haha

But yeah, absolutely I was getting a more and more video calls for my business and I solved the sound problem but now I had no idea where to start with lighting.

I'll setup something similar, thank you!

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A lot of really good info here. Thanks! I like how you are intentional about things that seem irrelevant, but pay off in the end.

One thing that I find helpful is having a picture of my Grandmother in my office. She was one of the most awesome people I know and I want to be like her. Plus I want her to be proud of me. So when I see her picture it spurs me on to not only do well and work hard, but it makes me ask questions like how is my character? Am I doing good?  Am I focusing on what's most important?

Thanks for sharing your insight.

PS One vote for Googly eyes.  That's a great idea

 

 

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Does the lack of a view and natural light every bother you? I know the Phillips lights are supposed to simulate natural light, but I feel I need to open the shades and have a pleasant (not distracting) place to rest my eyes occasionally.

Also, do you have advice when your home office is  in your bedroom? My space is limited in there and not sure I can turn the desk away from the wall. I hate that people can see a little bit of my bed in video calls. Of course it’s always made, but my husband is the one who makes it, so...

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Guest Arlina

Posted

Love the lighting suggestions!

Background is really important to me, so mine is beautiful, if I don't say so myself. ;)

One other thing to consider is what you wear. I dress to match my background, typically black or white. Patterns are distracting as are colors that clash.

And thank you for your email this morning. It made me giggle.

You're cool. ;)

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Guest Débora

Posted

Nice background makes the difference (and I'm not talking about the physical one only  ;)).

My office it's in the attic... a totally pain in the a** to make video properly (roof everywhere). But I solved the problem partially purchasing a paper background.

For the moment, it works for me. Will see in the future... (Maybe one of that awesome t-shirts would do the trick? :P)

Thanks for your tips (useful as always). ;) Greetings from the sunny Spain (perfect light even with vaulted ceilings ha, ha)

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Guest Ian Connel

Posted

For those of you with kids who are considering a home office, I would only consider it if you work when they're asleep. Especially if they're little.

They're loud - and often they want to see what you're doing, and because they're lovable and wonderful, you'll find excuses to go see them...and nothing gets done. Well, nothing work-related. (I took a lot of breaks to make hot cocoa for four people).

Get your work done at an office somewhere else, then go home and give them your full attention. My two cents!

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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Thanks Giles! It really adds a nice touch to the room....and best of all I can control them fully (dimmer, color etc).
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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Hey Kathy, I have two thoughts on this:

1.) For some people having a lot of interesting stuff around helps them think.

2.) For some people having a lot of interesting stuff around DISTRACTS them!

I'm in between those two. However I definitely think having books around helps, for some reason even just looking at book titles can jog your brain into ideas :)

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Hey Neville, great article - really timely for me having just moved country and now working remotely. And love the tips about lighting. Not a good look when I’m doing international calls with clients and I slowly get darker and darker.

 

What I find is the most important is actually to have a camera setup that’s not just my face at a computer. There’s so much communication that comes through body language, and so when you can create a setup where people can see you sitting at a table talking with them, it really takes the experience to the next level

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Guest Marilee Waters

Posted

Awesome article (though I first saw it via email)!

I would say that instead of a chalkboard wall you  could have a whiteboard wall. All you need to do is buy whiteboard paint and paint the wall.

Also, I have a large cloth background behind my desk that looks like a feature wall of reclaimed wood. Every call I get on with that behind me, someone comments on how cool it is.

Take it easy. I love your emails!

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Guest Dan Brisebois

Posted

I've been on Facebook Live lately and not thrilled with the background visuals.

But I only think about it in the minute or two before I go live.

Most of the rest of my farm and business is about determining goals first and designing to get there.

I can't believe I hadn't approached my “Reverse Office” that way.

I'm off to the whiteboard now to sketch something out and make a list of action items.

Thanks for this post!

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Neville, just remembered something. Our company uses Zoom, and you can use a virtual background. My coworker actually used a pic of his favourite rock band, so he looks like he's part of the band. Really fun. However, you can use more professional backgrounds like your city scape. :)
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Hey Neville, thank you for this article. Which video call software do you use? Cheers
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Thank you Neville, excellent article as always.

I read a lot about copywriting, member of many FB Copywriting groups and always find myself coming back to your resources, your articles are always full of hardcore tips, to the point and easy to read, you're a good ambassador to copywriting. Thank you!

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