SoundVision

How to Set Up a Productive, Collaborative Home Office

The ideal environment for today’s remote workforce

According to a recent survey of employed Americans, 43 percent said they spent at least some time working remotely. By 2020, projections estimate that mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3%) of the total U.S. workforce.  Mobile devices and simple, yet sophisticated, collaborative tools have enabled today’s workforce to effectively work from anywhere – an airplane, a hotel room or a well-appointed home office. Remote work is a “boon” to productivity and leads to higher efficiency and lower turnover. Not only does it attract the Millennial worker who values flexibility and technology, it keeps older workers in the workforce longer. So, the benefits are many but establishing a remote environment that represents the employer’s brand while providing a productive, collaborative space for the employee requires more than plugging in a laptop.

The Space

The first step is to define the space. The design will be driven by the type of work performed, the equipment required and the available spaces within the home. The room should be a space separate from daily living areas, free from distractions that could interfere with work or interrupt calls or video conferencing. It will need to offer adequate storage and easy accessibility to the home network.

  • Color – Furnishings, wall coverings and surroundings should be ergonomically pleasing and conducive to extended use. Opt for muted, neutral tones or a soft shade such as periwinkle blue, avoiding dark, harsh or vivid colors. Choose matte finish over reflective, glossy sheens. Wallpapers and fabric wallcoverings with subtle, non-reflective designs also work well.
  • Backdrop – Be thoughtful of the background when video conferencing. Keep the space clear of clutter and personal affects. Portable pop-up screens (either generic or imprinted with the company logo), room dividers and bookcases provide a professional backdrop and element of privacy.
  • Acoustics – Create a quiet space. Carpeting, area rugs and upholstered furnishings help to manage reverberant noise. Acoustic treatments, including custom wall panels (prints or logo’d), also aid in noise absorption.
  • Lighting – The more natural the lighting, the better the overall experience. Take advantage of natural sunlight by positioning the desk to face the window, avoiding shadows while on camera. For harsh, direct sunlight, add motorized window shades, available in various light-filtering, non-reflective weaves. If the room’s design is not conducive to proper desk placement and the light source is behind you, blackout shades can be added to properly control the light levels. Ceiling fans with light fixtures create a strobing effect on camera and should be turned off.  An integrated home automation system provides agile control of lighting, window shades, ceiling fans and HVAC, ideal for the working from home.

The Infrastructure

A stable, secure and robust network connection is essential for reliable network connectivity and a quality conferencing experience.  Hardwired broadband is recommended over wireless when possible. Also important to bear in mind is the number of users in the home that are competing for bandwidth.

The Tools

Based on network capability and hardware compatibility, there are numerous platforms available for seamless collaboration. Implementing a few tools to enhance audio and video will produce an even better experience.

  • Audio – Conferencing requires 2-way audio and can be problematic without the right equipment as devices can produce distortion and echo. Rather than relying on the laptop’s built-in speaker and microphone, opt for an external echo-cancelling speaker with microphone for clear communication. In a reverberant environment, a headphone set with built-in microphone will filter distracting background noise.
  • Video – A good quality, properly positioned camera is critical for effective collaboration. Invest in a high quality auxiliary unit rather than using the built-in camera that restricts control and image resolution. The camera should be placed where the user is focused, just above the monitor’s content for a near-to-natural experience. This will simulate looking into the camera. Common mistakes include mounting the camera below the screen which produces an unnatural, unflattering angle or mounting it on a monitor other than the one hosting the content, showing you looking away from the camera.

Trial Run

Evaluate the quality of the experience by taking it for a trial run. Most platforms offer the ability to record your meeting, giving you the opportunity to view the meeting as if on the far side. Record sessions using various scenarios – both while the room is quiet and when things from across the house are active – the HVAC, washing machine/dishwasher, pets, etc.  Type on the keyboard to gauge the sound level of keyclicks, assess how the background looks and adjust camera position and lighting to simulate a face-to-face meeting.

Getting started requires thoughtful design and know-how, but it’s an investment that will be realized through effective collaboration and increased productivity for years to come. As experts in both the technologies and design aspects of this rich, residential/professional hybrid environment, SoundVision can help you with the infrastructure and hardware requirements and work with your interior design professional to create the ideal remote workplace.

Resources:

IDC Forecasts U.S. Mobile Worker Population to Surpass 105 Million by 2020, Business Wire

Today’s mobile workforce: any time, any place, The Telegraph

How to Design the Ideal Home Office, Entrepreneur

American Workplace Changing at a Dizzying Pace, Gallup News

10 Best Jobs for Americans Over 65, The Fiscal Times

Considerations When Setting Up a Room for Video conferencing with ViewStation (Polycom)

6 Ways to Look Great on a Video Call, Fast Company

How often should you replace your smoke detectors?

What you may not know about smoke alarms

We get this call all the time.  You begin to hear “beeping” from  the smoke detectors in your home.  Inevitably, you believe it is your security system that is setting off this event.  We wanted to both clear this up, and provide you with some guidelines on when to change the batteries in your smoke detectors.

Below, on the left, is a picture of a smoke detector supplied by your electrical contractor.  This type of detector requires a 9 volt, back up battery that must be replaced.  It is this battery, when it begins to get low in power, to cause the smoke detector to beep to let you know it is time to replace the batteries.  As an aside, most smoke detectors are tied together so that if there is a smoke event ALL detectors would sound as this is a life-safety event.  That means that all of the sounders might sound when a battery starts to go low.  Because of that, we always recommend to change EVERY smoke detector battery when you go to change one.  Bite the bullet, bye 15 9 volt batteries and spend an hour on a ladder changing them all out.  🙂

On the right is a smoke / heat detector that we install.  Because it’s back up battery resides at the alarm panel itself, there is NO back up battery at the physical detector.  As such, this type of detector NEVER makes sound.  Should it detect a smoke or heat event, the sound would come from the alarm siren.

Years ago you made a wise decision to install smoke detectors throughout your Lake Norman home or business, keeping your family and property safe in the event of a fire. As the seasons rolled past, you’ve changed the batteries as recommended, but did you know that those trusted detectors actually have a shelf life?

It’s not just the batteries that need to be replaced

Smoke detectors have an expiration date and many currently in use have exceeded their full functionality as dust builds up over time, desensitizing the sensors.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends replacing smoke alarms every 10 years.  The date of manufacture can be found on the back or side of the smoke alarm. Wired or wireless, all alarms should be replaced 10 years from that date and not the date of purchase or installation. Making sure they are in good working order is critical because, according to Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA, “Working smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in a home fire in half.”

Interconnected smoke alarms offer an added measure of safety. Instead of just one sounding when smoke is detected, all units will be triggered, signaling every section of the home. When replacing an alarm within a connected system, experts recommend replacing all units within the system, even if some are still working. In addition, any alarm that continues to chirp after its batteries are swapped needs to be replaced, regardless of age.

Resolve to put safety first in the New Year! 

If you’ve got any questions about home life-safety and security or are interested in updating your current system or integrating a new system into your home automation system, please give us a call. We wish you and your family a happy, healthy and safe 2018!

For more safety tips for your smart home, visit: https://www.control4.com/blog/2016/12/5-easy-updates-for-a-safer-and-smarter-home-in-2017

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