The team here at Valiant is quickly approaching a full year of providing IT solutions and support to our customers from anywhere, and I’ve been reflecting on how much the workspace in my home has evolved between our first day of remote work and now.
When we switched to a remote model on March 13th, 2020, I had no sense of how long it would be until we returned to the office. 30 days? 90? Would this become a permanent change in how we work moving forward? The collaboration tools already in use were more than enough for internal communication needs, but what about sales calls and content creation efforts?
Maintaining and establishing clear lines of communication has been paramount from day one and creating a workspace that was usable daily, as opposed to on occasion, turned out to have much more of an impact on my ability to work with our team and customers than I initially considered.
Start with what you have
Our team produced our first live stream only 10 days after switching to a remote model. It was a completely new experience for us; we wanted to find new ways to communicate with our customers
This was an experiment, not a project. We’ve talked about producing a new podcast or live stream for years and overthought the ideas to the point where we didn’t even want to approach them. We stopped worrying and got started fully knowing that we’d have areas to improve from the start.
Looking back at the earliest episodes reveal a lot of problems with our workspaces, and I’ll use my own to point out areas of improvement that make difference in a visual presentation and have a major impact on confidence and delivery of information.
First, the position of my camera is too high. When talking about a topic that impacts our customers or discussing a solution with a prospective customer, I want to be sure that I’m virtually making eye contact with them. From the angle shown in the video above, it’s easy to see how being on the other end of a conversation can make someone feel more like a spectator than a participant.
Second, the headset I used worked for the occasional conference call but not daily use. Much like my workspace, it wasn’t something I depended on for more than a couple of days each month, so I didn’t give it much thought – until hearing myself in recordings.
Finally, positioning my desk in front of a window was a mistake. The amount of light coming in is a distraction to viewers and myself, detracting from meetings, streaming, etc.
Identify and address weaknesses
With some of the problems identified, my team and I set out to find solutions that were flexible, portable and something we could treat as a standard moving forward. As a result, we have a “streaming stack” that consists of specific headsets, lights, and other pieces of equipment – all of which greatly improved our workspaces and our level of confidence:
We selected equipment that was easy to use, versatile, and would improve all forms of communication that are voice and/or video-based. Our headsets are from Plantronics and are certified for use with Microsoft Teams, we have small LED lights attached to our monitors, and have upgraded our cameras where needed.
I moved my desk to be in front of a wall without windows, and our Creative Director, Matt, designed some new posters based on our philosophy to add some personality and on-brand décor to my workspace. When combined with a new ergonomic desk chair, the changes resulted in a much more professional and polished appearance.
Continuous iterative improvement
The improvements to my workspace, as well as the individual workspaces of my team members, didn’t improve overnight. Making changes like these, ones that have an impact on how you’re able to communicate, take time, and an approach that favors iterative improvement.
Our weekly live stream, which started as just an idea, has grown into much more over the past year, pushing us to adapt and grow, find more impactful ways to communicate with ourselves, customers, and the public, and has been a truly rewarding experience.
While we intend on a hybrid work-from-home model in the future, we will be investing in creating a streaming studio space in our Manhattan office to continue delivering content, educational materials, and more. I never anticipated any of this; the preparation, complexity, and energy required to produce content on a regular schedule aren’t always easy – but it is always rewarding. I have a newfound respect for content creators on YouTube, streamers on Twitch, and everyone else doing the same.
This is a work in progress so stay tuned as we continue to improve – and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for notifications before we go live each Thursday at 10:30 AM!