One of my Organize Your Life students fought back tears as she shared how her husband had built her a backdrop from reclaimed wood that she could use in her home office which happened to be in her bedroom. From all appearances, one would never know that she was sitting in a corner of a previously messy bedroom. My student confessed that chaos had become the norm in her home where as foster parents, they currently had seven children residing with them.
After the first week of the program, she decided enough was enough – it was time to claim a place of calm where she could produce and give a professional appearance despite everything she had going on. Sitting in front of her beautiful new ‘wall,’ she looked as though she was in a hip office somewhere in Seattle or San Francisco.
According to a poll by Gallup, as reported in the NY Times, 43% of Americans are working virtually. This is up from 39% in 2012. I have written about the perils and positives of working from home however as we continue to increase the virtual workforce, there remains an expectation of professionalism associated with working with someone who is based out of a traditional office.
Video conferencing platforms such as Zoom have become the norm and there is a further expectation of having a face-to-face meeting as opposed to seeing someone’s professional photograph as a placeholder. Of the hundreds of clients in my agency, almost all of them use Zoom as their conference platform and we use it exclusively to run our meetings and classes. Platforms like WebEx and Go To Meeting come with the expectation that the presenter is going to ‘hide’ however in this business landscape the vast majority of people, this person included, wants to do business with an actual human being who we can see and that puts the pressure on in no uncertain terms.
This past week, our team met with the team at Zoom. Naturally, it was a face-to-face meeting and as the screen of our sales rep appeared, I was awestruck by her gorgeous office. I asked her where she was based out of as it looked very much like Sydney Harbour. She laughed, flicked a switch, and showed me the green screen behind her. Zoom has now added the feature of custom backgrounds. You pin up your green screen, choose the background and voila – you are in what appears to be a corner office looking like you represent a massive multi-national company.
In doing business, what people do not want to see behind you is chaos. They do not want to see your children’s toys, a mess, a list of names on your whiteboard, or anything else that oozes lack of professionalism. Your potential, and existing, clients want to do business with someone who appears to have ‘it’ together and gone are the days of dim lighting and the ‘I just work in my messy kitchen’ mentality.
With this in mind, here are 3 things you can do right now to increase the look of professionalism from your home office.
1.Position Your Desk Facing Out From Front of a Wall
When you have a desk facing a wall, chances are the lighting behind you will be harsh. If you are backlit, your face will be dark. If you have your back to a wall, you can paint the wall, put your logo behind you, have a fake wall made, use a green screen, or any manner of things that essentially mask that you could be in your bedroom working. NEVER have your back to a window - the lighting will be horrible.
In the image above, from Zoom Virtual Meeting, you can see how the representative's background seems to be a beautiful bridge. Having been in meetings with people using this, it looks much more authentic than it does in this image.
2.Invest in Good Lighting
Amazon has amazing, inexpensive lighting at very affordable prices. I purchased this lighting pack from Limo for about $59 plus shipping for my home office. In the day, I face a wall of windows so the lighting is fantastic however in the evening, it can be quite dark. When I am doing Zoom meetings, I turn on the lights and have them facing me so it creates brightness on my face.
3. Clean It Up - No One Needs to See Your Mess
People are paying attention to what they see on your screen. Having a desk strewn with coffee cups, mountains of papers, and miscellaneous tchotchke, is not professional. Clean up your entire work area, even if it is your bedroom. Regardless of how neat everything appears in your video screen, you will not feel like working if you are looking at several days worth of laundry. Your environment affects your mood and it is essential that you work from a clean, clutter-free space.
Lastly, if you are fortunate enough to work from home, make the decision to up your professionalism. I work with people just like you, to get organized, productive, and profitable in the You Economy. If you are building a business and want to take your brand to the next level - my class - OYL Business Academy is for you. If you simply need strategies for organization, time-management, and getting systems in place, then OYL for Entrepreneurs is the next logical step. I would love to work with you and help you succeed.