Why everyone should be branding their WFH video backgrounds

Mar 30 2020, 1:00 pm

Many professionals working from home for the first time are being confronted with a problem that no generation has faced before: creating a streamable home office space.

Over the past few weeks, no doubt we’ve all tried working from different spots in our homes: the living room couch, the kitchen island, and (perhaps most notably) the bed. This also means our colleagues have gotten a new perspective on what our life outside of work actually looks like.

But as working from home turns from a novelty to the new normal, we should all be considering how our personal space reflects our professional brands — and adjust to ensure we’re making the right impression.

But how do we begin? For starters, we can look for guidance from those who’ve already made a career out of this: YouTubers.

JJ McCullough/YouTube

JJ McCullough, a Vancouver-based YouTube personality with more than 145K subscribers, has spent years crafting a personal brand, and part of that means branding his visual presence.

McCullough wanted to present the image of somebody who is well-travelled, has diverse interests, and has eclectic tastes. As such, his space is filled with meaningful and unique items he’s collected from around the world.

“A lot of my content in my channel is similarly eclectic. A lot of it is based around talking about the different cultures around the world and having insights into different nations and different communities. And so I wanted a backdrop that would project that,” he explains.

Other industries are using these tactics already. Think about the latest news program you watched where a guest Skyped in. Were they surrounded by leather-bound books? Seated in a well-lit study? Dressed in a suit?

While we haven’t all started our own YouTube channels (yet), we need to think about these visual tactics and their importance in a remote-working culture. Here are three ways you can brand your background and put forward a more professional remote presence.

Start with the space

Before anything else, you need to choose the spot where you’re going to set up your home base. The best options will have natural light, simple backgrounds, and the opportunity to arrange objects relevant to your profession.

Not all of us are lucky enough to live in a sun-filled New York loft. To find the light you do have in your home, start with windows. As much as possible, face your desk towards the window, or align with it perpendicularly.

However, doing this often means a significant portion of our home will be visible in the background. You want to avoid this, otherwise little objects and passers-by might become distractions for your clients and coworkers. Tilt your desk to keep a wall or neutral space behind you, or consider hanging a divider to delineate your office.

Bring your brand into view

Desk space/Unsplash

Once you’ve found the spot in your home for your office, you need to bring objects into your space that are signifiers of the knowledge base you have. Everything should be chosen thoughtfully; think of things that convey your personality, your expertise, and the seriousness of your work.

“In a lot of professional studies, such as CNN or Vox or MSNBC, oftentimes they have pre-assembled sets for their expert guests to stand in front of,” says JJ. These carefully-curated spaces might include objects like books, a framed map, or an antique flag, each of which has enormous symbolism to the viewer.

Doing this at home can be a lot simpler. Do you work in a creative industry? Bring a painting or colourful materials into your view. Other key items could include:

  • posters
  • creative equipment (such as camera lenses, sewing machines, paint sets)
  • stacks of relevant books
  • materials with your company’s logo on them
  • souvenirs

Subtraction is just as important as addition. Consider removing items that belong to other family members or personal trinkets that will be more distracting than charming.

See eye to eye

All the work you’ve put into branding your space is important. However, if your contacts open their video chat to find themselves staring at your forehead or (heaven forbid) up your nostrils, it could all be for naught.

While it might not seem the most crucial part of your branding, make sure your webcam is set up at a flattering angle (which usually means eye level). Sit back so your shoulders and head are both in the frame and you appear relaxed. Doing so will present a cool and collected persona.

Feeling empowered to redo your WFH digs? Share what your home office looks like in the comments below, or visit Hive Labs for more content marketing inspiration.

Leah BjornsonLeah Bjornson

+ Hive Labs