With Covid-19 affecting businesses around the globe, the need for staff & employees to practice WFH (Work from Home) has never been greater. Where employees used to spend an hour or so checking email at home with their notebook, this have now transitioned a full 8-hour day engaging in video & audio conference calls and other related work. The notebook that once was portable and convenient to each employees may no longer serve its purpose.
In order for employees to work effectively and comfortably from home full time, a more tailored desktop solution much be considered in addressing a number of key attributes which improves both their effectiveness and performance of their work. This change is imminent as more and more companies are trending and adopting the practice of WFH. This trending change together with our knowledge in Workplace Technologies allows us to create the following document which offers a comprehensive set of Guidelines for companies and businesses considering the adoption of an enhanced WFH Desktop Solution. The enhancement focuses on both the “User Experience” and the increased security that’s now required for WFH users.
Mic & Audio Quality
The single most important element for any conference call is the sound. A firm and solid audio sound during any conference call provides not only comfort but allowing the users to focus on the discussion at hand. Any kind of softness, breaks, and weak audio sound will require the user to spend more efforts in focusing and trying to understand the discussion. This problem is amplified when the user is engaged in multiple calls each day, which is exactly what’s trending for WFH.
A combination sound pod can provide a much more superior sound than the minimal speaker system that existing in most notebooks or portable devices. The sound pod provides a much higher dynamic range which offers a more quality and solid sound for the user. In addition, the sound pod includes a higher quality microphone system that can be placed directly in front of the user for a more direct speech pickup which reflects a matching sound quality to audience at the far end of the call.
Video Display & Sizing
Similar to the audio quality, the video quality carries the same weight in delivering an adequate screen size and quality video images for any conference call. Display screen from the notebook will no longer be sufficient as the 12” or 14” is generally too small to serve larger conference call with multiple parties, especially where content sharing is also used. A typical 12” screen will not be enough to see the multiple parties and content sharing of documents such as excel and graphs.
We do propose a FHD monitor with a suggested 20” to 22” screen size to be provided for WFH. This increased size display will provide user with comfortable screen images including content sharing of word and excel documents, which too often presented too small to be effectively discussed. Depending on the nature of the work, an additional secondary monitor may be required to fulfill the user work duties.
Camera & Positioning Angle
Angling of the camera is a very important element of video conferencing. The desirable viewing angle is at eye level with a variation of no more than +/- 10 degrees. If the camera is too low, you often get the chin-up shot which usually includes the head and a good part of the ceiling and lighting fixtures, which is not desirable. This is the normal case with notebooks where the camera is positioned too low in providing an effective view for the far end audience. Often, the user looks more distorted when the camera is positioned too low. At the same time, a camera that too high may also reduce the facial details of the users especially when their head are looking down on the keyword.
The most preferred position of the camera is mounted on top of a 20-22” Display Monitor where it is closest to the eye level viewing position. Adjustments can be made to people that are shorter or taller via their chair where possible. This position is also the best split between the camera and the display screen where the far end participants can still receive a good visual of the face even when users are viewing the screen contents rather than looking directly into the camera.
“Hot Conference” Standby
With the increased volumes of conference calls per day, wouldn’t it be good to have a system that’s always standing by and ready to conference any time of the day? No more need to worry about whether everything is connected and configured properly. A hot standby system includes a mini-PC that is always on & available and preconfigured to the popular conferencing platforms such as MS Teams, Zoom, WebEx and Google Hangout. The system is fully hardwired for all the audio, video and camera system to avoid any mismatch Bluetooth pairings and wireless connections.
As notebooks are always moved around from places to places, the design of the “Hot Conference” system allows for user to either use the mini-PC or their own laptop device by the disconnection and reconnection of a single cable. User can determine which system to use and the key importance is to have a system that’s Standing By and works.
It has been reported by multiple news media that Hackers are now targeting WFH users in penetrating corporate networks. Hacking into a notebook is definitely far easier than hacking into the HQ corporate network in accessing valuable and private data. The risks were minimized in the past as mobile users generally checks their emails from time to time or travelling abroad which makes hacking more difficult. The connection time is not constant and neither is the location which may change from time and place. However, with the practice of WFH, there is a far greater chance that the notebook will be on 8-10 hours a day if not more. This makes it much easier for hackers to penetrate.
Although many companies have installed VPN & security agents inside their notebooks to protect the users, it is important to know that this is the same VPN pathway that hackers will use in penetrating the corporate network once they have successfully hacked into the user’s notebook. Therefore, it is of the utmost important for corporate to review the current security infrastructure to see what can be done to increase the security level.
With the increased hours of connect time practicing WFH, one needs to consider strategizing WFH as a small office rather than a single users as we have conditioned ourselves to think in the past. Corporate level security devices and appliances should be considered for WFH employees to increase the level of security for not only the employee but also for the company. A secured & active Security system with dedicated updates on Antivirus & Malware definitions, intrusion detection and a fully encrypted VPN connection back to HQ will no doubt reduce the risks of relying on a simple software on a notebook to perform the same duty.
Noise Reduction & Cancellation
While working from home, it’s quite difficult to avoid the sound and related noise that happens normally inside a home. Whether its baby’s crying, dog barking, toilet flushing, all these noises will no doubt be a distraction for both the user and the far end participants and making it quite difficult to focus on the discussion itself. One of the best and most effective ways to reduce the noise pollution is to use a headsets with built-in microphone and with a noise cancellation feature.
The headset can offer the user some degree of noise reduction from background noises allowing him / her to concentrate and focus more on the meeting at hand. The microphone that comes with the headset is usually uni-directional which would mainly pick up the sound directly from your speech and less of the background noises. The use of the headset will also allow for more privacy on the discussion preventing background people from hearing the conversation as well.
The facial lighting is also an element that can have impact on your visibility for the far end audience. Sometimes, with a bright lighted window or patio door, the user’s face may become very dark as the camera tries to compensate the brightness, which does not help. Try to position yourself in front of a direct lighting source where possible. If not, consider installing a light bar above the monitor to increase the lamination level of your face which will be better reflected to the far end audience.