The term ‘remote access’ sounds deliciously deviant. No traffic jams, no interloping co-workers, no distractions (apart from BuzzFeed which will now be your new boss) and, most importantly, no wondering what to wear. In reality, remote access is more of an oxymoron. Sure, ‘working’ from home in your jimjams with Fluffy the Labradoodle asleep on your lap may seem like the dream but, you, my friend, may as well be microchipped. The powers that be know how to keep tabs, and it all starts with a seemingly innocent video conference request.
We’ve all been there. Your trigger finger presses ‘accept’ before your brain has had the opportunity to check the time or scan the attendees. Call it a people-pleasing proclivity, but we all know you’ve been playing Candy Crush Saga for the past hour. A window suddenly opens on your laptop and, whaddayaknow, your boss is staring right at you.
Don’t worry, kiddo. You’ve got this. Much like everyone’s favourite anchorman Ron Burgundy, you’re business up top and no one’s business on the bottom. After all, who’s going to see those fleece snowflake leggings? Insert smug smile here.
But wait. Who’s this new face? The CEO? Was she on the attendees’ list? It appears she’s read the Q4 marketing report you compiled and wants to drill a bit deeper into the data. Now’s your moment to shine. Instead, you start sweating. Vulnerability is not a good look on you. Typically, when addressing a three-letter-acronym, you’re dressed with intention; head-to-toe starting with a bouncy blow-dry, cashmere sweater and Stella McCartney trousers. You look confident and competent. Most of all, you feel bulletproof.
Today’s top knot, barefaced, loungewear troika doesn’t hustle the same career muscle. Instead of leaning in, you veer away from the lens in a bid to disguise the visible pile of laundry behind your behemoth bun. That’s before Fluffy starts licking the laptop. At least the errant coffee stain on your t-shirt is now less visible. Oh, dear.
Whether caught on the hop or hopping over hot coals for a promotion, we could all use a few pointers when it comes to finetuning our virtual presence. If the devil is in the detail, then the career God is in the big picture. Here are your top tips for successful screen time.
SCREEN TIME TIPS
The hallmark of a solid video call is clear communication. Sometimes, however, our tech fairy takes an extended lunch break leaving us with sketchy Wi-Fi, muffled audio and screen-sharing interruptions. Although, digital distractions may be outside of your wheelhouse; you can mitigate the likely risk by futureproofing these finer details.
Set the scene: When setting up your phone or laptop, do a reccy of the room. Aim to shoot from a clean white wall, steering clear of potential distractions that could impede your message. No dice? Think of the panto refrain: “It’s behind you! It’s behind you!” See what lurks within frame whether it’s stacks of magazines, Hoarders-style clutter, a glare-reflecting mirror or, as in the case of Professor Robert Kelly, adorable gatecrashing children stealing the thunder of his BBC report on South Korean politics.
Look to lighting: Whether a smartphone or a webcam, a universal truth applies. You will look as though you’ve emerged from a week in a darkened room after a bout of scurvy unless privy to some decent camera lighting. Sounds bougie? Trust me; no good will come of the natural look unless jonesing for extended sick leave. Put a lamp either side of your laptop or clipped over the webcam. Wearing glasses? The higher the lights, the lesser the glare. On your iPhone? A portable LED-ring light should do the trick.
Be considered with colours: How is it that morning telly presenters look so bright and chipper at 6 am? Look a bit closer at what they wear: solid colours in jewel tones (think greens and blues) that bequeath a freshly-squeezed glow. You may feel serious in black or powerful in red but, like radiators, one drains and the other bleeds. Ditto for white which, when paired with a white wall, can allude to a disembodied head. What’s more, if the room light is too bright, that M&S lacy bra can get a sneaky cameo. Should colour just not be your jam; dilute these divisive shades with a neutral blazer or layering piece. Add a neck scarf and divert attention by design.
Pick prints with caution: Ever notice how much you blink after looking at certain patterns? Now, imagine wearing one while asking for a raise or promotion. Screens can do funny things to stripes and checks, in particular, distorting, pixelating and overpowering facial features. Rule of thumb: opt for smaller patterns or reverse the ‘distract up’ theory of interior decorating by relegating bolder prints from the waist down.
Feedback is not a gift: In matters of communication, it is paramount that our verbal and non-verbal cues harmonise. When what we wear competes with what we say, our attention is invariable diverted to the loudest distraction. Case in point: noisy jewellery. Whether dangly beaded earrings, a layered bauble necklace or stack of bangles, the moment you as much twitch; let alone gesticulate; the hounds of auditory hell will break loose. Combine your microphone with someone’s AirPods and prepare for deafening silence. The solution? Minimal or discrete jewellery. If in doubt, move around. If it speaks back to you, you know what to do.