Many of us have transitioned either part or full time to working from home, video conferencing throughout the day with colleagues rather than meeting in person. Unless one turns the camera off during these frequent Zoom calls, work spaces in our homes have suddenly become visible to our colleagues. All our clutter, family photos, travel mementos and home decor elements — whether appropriate for video calls or not — have now been placed on display. Many of us have thus chosen to take these elements down, choosing instead to conduct our meetings with a blank wall background rather than show the world our personal, private spaces. However, with eclectic, maximalist and more personal aesthetics shaking up the interior design world, infusing our homes with character, color and fun has become more acceptable — and even encouraged! Follow below for seven ways to style your remote work office for daily Zoom meetings — from organizational tips to ideas for achieving the perfect conference call lighting.
Declutter your home office to improve its aesthetics and lessen stress and discomfort. Consider pretty organizers that can double as home decor. To help yourself get organized, pick up the Interlude Home Faye Dusk Patina / Gold Sculpture or the Interlude Home Vivien White / Clear Shiny Brass And Blush Storage Case from Top Modern for paper clips, sticky notes, wall tacks and other office supplies.
In his article “The Powerful Psychology Behind Cleanliness” for Psychology Today, Dr. Ralph Ryback, M.D. outlines why keeping your office organized is so important. Dr. Ryback writes that not only is keeping your workspace organized better for your reputation during Zoom calls, but it also has mental and physical health benefits. Ryback references a recent study “led by associate professor NiCole R. Keith, Ph.D., research scientist and professor at Indiana University [who] found that people with clean houses are healthier than people with messy houses.” In fact, writes Ryback, “participants who kept their homes clean were healthier and more active than those who didn’t.” Another study examined the emotional effects of a disorganized space. According to Ryback, “a 2010 study published in the scientific journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin [found that] women who described their living spaces as ‘cluttered’ or full of ‘unfinished projects’ were more likely to be depressed and fatigued than women who described their homes as ‘restful’ and ‘restorative.’”
In her article “6 Benefits of an Uncluttered Space” for Psychology Today, Alice Boyes outlines why keeping clutter off your desk matters. She writes that “decluttering creates a sense of confidence and self-efficacy (seeing yourself as competent).” It is also “energizing” and has the capacity to reduce anxiety by removing unwanted distractions. Similarly, during a call, both you and your colleagues will be less distracted by clutter on your desk or random bits behind you in the background.
Tronk Design Franklin Wall Shelf from TopModern
Though one might assume they should create a minimalist, wholly professional space without any evidence of their personal life, including elements reflective of one's personality, family and/or character is actually quite appropriate for most work from home spaces. In fact, interior design experts frequently recommend adding one or two personal elements to the background of your Zoom meeting because it removes a sense of sterility from the space and makes both yourself and your colleagues feel more comfortable. Steele Marcoux supports this concept in her article “Zhush Up Your Zoom Backdrop with These Simple Styling Tricks” for Veranda. Quoting LA designer Joe Lucas, Marcoux writes that “‘especially when we have to maintain physical distance between colleagues, friends, and family members, it’s nice to have things behind you or in the camera frame that show who you are.’” Augment your bookcase, your mounted wall shelves or your wall itself with art you love, collectibles you adore and photos of family, friends and your travels!
Natural light is the most flattering and the most healthful for indoor work — whether it be on a computer or otherwise. Consider adding a subtle, naturally textured fixture to your office for diffuse lighting above eye level during Zoom video calls. We also recommend a metallic pendant or one with a frosted glass shade that softly diffuses light. Avoid direct, pointed light that uses fluorescent or other blue-toned bulbs. In her article “Supermodel Secrets to Getting Super-Flattering Lighting at Home” for Vogue, Elizabeth Brownfield offers a few simple to employ tips for creating natural light at home without a window. She first recommends looking for bulbs marked on the box with “a color temperature of around 2700K for clean, soft, warm light that says ‘home.’” Next, she suggests “having different types of [lighting] sources at varying heights and levels of diffusion [which] will give your rooms depth and dimension.”
Whatever you do, avoid placing your desk directly in front of a window that receives lots of sunlight. Jefferson Graham explains why in his article “Six tips for looking great in a Zoom meeting” for USA Today. Graham writes that allowing your laptop’s video conference camera to face the window will force the Zoom “camera to expose for the light,” making “you into a silhouette.” Graham recommends “having one steady lamp, directly by your face, for even, steady lighting [with] no sidelight or backlight.” The best position for your desk in an office with a large window around eye level is to “face the window, which will give you soft, people-pleasing light.”
Another simple but very important tip to follow when creating the perfect Zoom background is to add houseplants, fresh flowers and other natural materials that evoke the outdoors. Fresh flowers or house plants breathe life into a stodgy space and are particularly effective for your video conferencing backdrop in basement or attic work spaces. Not only will adding a bit of greenery breathe new life into your office and add interest to your Zoom background, it may also calm you and encourage productivity. The Science Daily article “Why plants in the office make us more productive” explains that plants do indeed affect worker performance. The article notes that recent research found “plants in the office significantly increased workplace satisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration, and perceived air quality.”
One the most important design tips we have to offer is that remote workers make sure to curate their bookcases in a way that looks natural rather than adopting trendy ways of organizing books and trinkets. In his article “Curate your Zoom background bookcase: 10 books that should be in there and 10 that definitely shouldn’t” for LinkedIn, Richard Tams — founder of Tailwind Advisory — writes of the types of books to include and which to leave out of the view of your camera in your work-from-home office. Tams encourages remote workers to fill your bookcase only with books you have read or hope to read in the future, not with those in which you have absolutely no interest. He recommends adding “hardcore classics,” “appropriate autobiographies” — to “showcase your heroes” — and “self-help Bibles” that focus on “the developmental rather than the desperate.” Richard Tams also suggests tossing in a few work-related reference books, a dictionary, fun travel guides, art books and “foreign language books.” Books to avoid include those related to dating or “finding love,” controversial titles and any iterations of the “for Dummies” series. Bookends are great for completing the look — particularly on an etagere or open-ended bookcase — and can be chosen in either fun or sleek styles.
In her article “This Twitter Account Rates Zoom Backgrounds, and It Hates Your Color-Coordinated Books” for Apartment Therapy, Nicoletta Richardson interviews Claude Taylor, the founder of Mad Dog Pac about what to leave out of view during Zoom conferences. According to Taylor, the biggest “mistake to avoid [when decorating for Zoom meetings] at home [is] color-coordinating [the] bookshelf” behind your virtual work station. Taylor recommends conference callers avoid color-coordinating their bookshelves because it “looks as though you’re ‘treating books as props.’” This type of decorating faux pas can make you seem disingenuous — or simply silly — to colleagues participating in your virtual Zoom call.
With so many of us working remotely while sharing home offices with spouses and children, folding screens and room dividers have become a must. Room dividers and folding screens offer added texture, color and visual interest while offering a bit of extra privacy. Adding a striking screen to your work-from-home space is perfect for those without space for a bookcase or those who cannot hang art in their apartment. We love this chic acacia wood Moe's Home Collection Multi 3 Panel Room Divider for remote work spaces with natural or organic vibes. For a more glamorous space, we love the Caracole Classic Golden Shimmer Three-Panel Room Divider from TopModern.
The fussy gallery walls trendy in years past are almost universally agreed to be out of fashion today. Instead of a sea of paintings or framed photographs, opt for a single statement sculpture or painting. In her article "Are Gallery Walls Over? Here’s Why Interior Designers Are Ditching the Trend" for House Beautiful, Megan Beauchamp explains the trend's fall from favor. Quoting LA interior designer Katie Hodges, Beauchamp writes that "gallery walls 'tend to look cluttered, can completely overwhelm a space, or even detract from the architecture of or furnishings in the room.'" Opt for a piece that is calming — like the Moe's Home Collection Canvas Wall Art from TopModern — rather than too frenetic. We also love a great wallpaper like the York Wallcoverings Modern Heritage 125th Anniversary Beige / Seafoam Acanthus Toss Wallpaper from TopModern.