WFH - Put a Ring On It

WFH - Put a Ring On It

Big Ideas

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December 4 2020
Big Ideas

Many of us are months into working from a location other than our employer's physical address.

Sherpa employees have been telecommuting for more than a decade now, but up until recently, we were pretty passive about ensuring our employees had the appropriate tools to show up well in a video conference.

Now that many have been working exclusively from home for months, it occurred to our team that we needed to step up our WFH setups.

It's always been a part of our DNA to have excellent hardware and software tools at Sherpa, but the requirement to be at home 100% of the time exposed several areas for improvement.
There's no question that with the WFH genie out of the bottle, it's hard to go back to the way things were before. And that's okay, but it's critical that our remote workers continue to be effective communicators - internally AND externally while using technology at home.

Lights, Camera, Action!


Continual improvement is something we are committed to at Sherpa and recently we turned our tech wizards to finding reasonably priced, effective tools to make our team show up better for each other, our clients and prospects. We decided that meetings with choppy or muddy video and views looking up people's noses are not acceptable. It was a matter of equipping our team out with some affordable equipment and teaching them how to make some setting changes to improve the meeting experience.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the backbone of the whole experience. Video uses more than its fair share. The critical piece that people generally don't understand is that it's your UPLOAD speed that has the greatest effect on the viewer's experience. Many people have excellent download speeds, but terrible upload speeds - and factor in the likelihood of a partner or child doing a video conference concurrently, you have a recipe for a poor experience.

A good rule of thumb is 3.5 - 5Mbps Per person upload streaming for a group Zoom call. Here's a handy guide.

 Lighting

Whether it's home or the office, most of us look terrible on camera. The good news is there's still hope. Lighting is a huge factor for achieving better videos. In most homes (or offices) there are significant issues with different types of light, or the amount. Florescent, incandescent, LED, natural... we ask our lowly web cameras to deal with less than ideal conditions.

There's a simple solution. A $25 ring light can make a huge difference in the quality of a video. On a colleague's recommendation, we tried this one from Amazon and the results were startlingly good. Take a look at each of 3 different settings in my basement.

Quadrant showing 4 test lighting results.

Camera

Last... and certainly not least - the camera. When all of a sudden, millions of people are working from home instead of the office, there is a corresponding run on the enabling technology. The result, name brand web cameras are in short supply. I personally use a decade old Microsoft LifeCam Cinema and it is better than most (if you can find one 😑).

Mat Carvalho and I had an idea to go on Amazon and order a bunch of off-brand web cameras and test them out in our different settings to see how each of them stack up.

Image of 7 webcam boxes in a pyramid shape.

The results were quite interesting and we ended up having two favourites. These were the Razer Kiyo and the bizarrely named Angetube. You can see Mat's full review here.

Based on our findings, we are outfitting our entire team with the hardware that they need to make their virtual selves look great. The small investment in a ring light, an off-brand webcam and a quick tutorial on settings is just a small investment that we are willing to make to improve the overall virtual WFM experience for our employees, clients and prospects. You don't need to be a tech wizard or a professional videographer to up your WFH game, (plus, we spent the time and money to do some research for you), so go ahead spend a little money and start seeing amazing results!

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