Screen time

Chances are you’ve been on enough video calls this year to have the basics nailed (don’t eat on camera, check what’s on your screen before you share, let your housemates know you’re on a call so they don’t wander across the screen in their underwear, etc.). Here are a few other good tips we’ve noted over the last six months:

1. Go easy on the backgrounds
Virtual backgrounds are great for making it seem like you’re not sitting at home, but they can be distracting (Is that a Tardis?) and have an uncanny tendency to swallow body parts. A plain, real-world background keeps your head from disappearing every time you move and keeps the focus on the task at hand.

2. Give your processor a break
Older computers and lightweight laptops often struggle to keep up with the processing demands of video calls. Minimizing how many applications are running while you’re on the call can help. If you still experience lag, shut off your camera. Many platforms also let you turn off incoming video, which can save a tonne of computing resources.

3. Caption your meetings
Google Meet is at least one video platform that provides real-time captions, which can be a big help on calls with poor audio. There’s even a plugin that lets you download the full transcript afterward. The speech recognition technology is pretty reliable, and when it does get confused, at least it’s often amusing. We’re still trying to figure out what “Red River Song get a bit of Echo” might have meant…

4. Wear pants
We know. This goes against one of the biggest perks of working from home. But remember how your mother used to tell you to always wear clean underwear in case you ended up at the hospital? In the age of video calling, we think Mom would agree that it’s wise to wear pants in case you have to jump up to grab a power cord or catch some falling papers.