With the onset of the COVID–19 global pandemic in 2020 using video from home has become the new normal for around 35% of the population, now known as ‘the remotes’ (Robert Reich). It is important to present yourself at your best in video calls and meetings.
However, not all of us are fortunate enough to have our own quiet and well furnished home office. Many of us are now working from home in a shared workspace. For some it’s with our partners, or housemates, and for many us is it’s with our children as well.
This new working environment has implications, and complications, not just in our relationships. But also in terms of what can be seen, or heard, by your colleagues and fellow attendees during online meetings.
Virtual and remote teams
I’ve been leading and working in virtual and remote teams for more than a decade. The recommended best practice for virtual and remote teams promotes as much use of video and face time with each other as is possible. So we need to find a way to present ourselves professionally in these new circumstances.
Learn to hide your need and show your skill.
Microsoft Teams (Teams) has long had the feature to blur your video background in a Teams meeting. This option was originally introduced to support our colleagues who may be lip-reading during a meeting. By bluring the background of a speaker and removing all other movement it makes it easier, for those who are lip-reading, to maintain a focus on the presenters mouth.
The blur background feature also has the added benefit of allowing us all to blur our video background in Teams meetings to disguise what is behind us.
As of April 2020, Teams now has a feature to replace your video background in a Teams meeting. This currently lets you select from a library of images in Teams to replace your video background in Teams calls or meetings. It’s really good at removing your own background from the video and improving how you are presenting yourself.
A best practice for joing a Teams call or meeting is to join on mute, and with your video off. This will allow you to choose to blur your background, or disguise your background using the built in features of Teams.
Change your background before a meeting starts in Teams
Before you join a call or meeting set up your video in More options (just to the right of the mic switch). _Select Background effects | Background settings_.
You can blur your background, keeping yourself clear while Teams conceals everything that is behind you. Or you can replace your background with one of the example images provided in Teams.
To change your background during a meeting go to the meeting controls and select More actions (…) More options button > Show background effects.
You’ll be able to preview your change to see how it looks before you apply it.
Teams background update in May 2020
As of mid-May 2020 Microsoft will allow you to use your own background images. This update will enable those presenting their company to customers or prospective customers, to select a common background image, perhaps with a company logo.
Great background images for Teams
If you wanted to select an image that matches your own style I can recommend looking at Unsplash.com and searching for keywords such as minimalist, office, home, or other ideas you can think of.
Some of my personal favourites from Unsplash are:
In an ideal world we would all be joining Teams meetings in our own home-office that is quiet, well decorated, professional, and reflects our own style and taste.
If this is not the scenario that you find yourself in then watch out for my next post where I will suggest and recommend approaches to present yourself well in Teams calls and meetings.
Featured image by Bernard Hermant on unsplash.com