Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Working from home: The future of business is remote

How to set the stage for a successful work from home performance

Performing at a high level while working from home starts with maximizing your home office experience. Karen Mangia, a member of Salesforce's Work From Home Task Force, offers simple tips that can help transform your experience.

Telecommuting 101: How to support and manage a global remote workforce

Glassdoor recently published the best tech companies for remote work in 2020 and Salesforce is one of these top companies. Salesforce is also one of the first companies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by encouraging all of its 50,000 employees to work from home. To learn more about remote work best practices, I collaborated with one my colleagues -- Karen Mangia, vice president, customer and market insights at Salesforce. Karen is a member of the Salesforce Work From Home Best Practices Task Force. I asked Karen to provide her recommendations for achieving high performance while working from home. 


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Karen Mangia is Vice President, Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce

Oscar Wilde wrote that "life imitates art far more than art imitates life." And, for most of us around the world, work has now become its own art form as we seek to balance the mandated integration of work and life. What if you could set the stage for a successful performance personally and professionally by how you construct your home office? Before you resign yourself to endlessly imitating a Video Conference Call in Real Life, we invite you to discover what's behind the curtain of high impact home offices.

Here's how to maximize your home office experience.

1. Test your bandwidth. Your entire household or neighborhood might decide to stream movies during your high stakes meeting. So, test your bandwidth in advance using Speedtest. Most desktop video conferencing solutions require 1.2Mbps to 1.5Mbps of bandwidth for a 1:1 video conference. If there are more participants, anticipate another 1 Mbps per person for good video quality.

2. Build bandwidth back-ups. Contact your service provider to increase your bandwidth, if needed. And build your own bandwidth disaster recovery plan. "Either use your mobile phone as a mobile hotspot," recommends Charlie Isaacs, VP and CTO of Customer Connection at Salesforce, "or purchase a MiFi device to create your own mobile hotspot."

3. Say cheese. Test your video camera to ensure the image you want to convey is crystal clear. If your laptop's integrated video camera is insufficient, or if you're using an external monitor, consider an external video camera. Prices start as low as $30 USD with easy installation. Make sure your camera lens, regardless of the camera, greets you at eye level.

4. Set the stage. What will the audience see when you turn on your video camera? If it's an unmade bed, your cluttered kitchen table, or your cement block basement wall, consider a backdrop. Either reposition a bookcase or piece of furniture, order a backdrop (or print your own), or upload digital backdrop images to your video conferencing platform (like Google, Skype, Zoom or WebEx).

5. Illuminate the obvious: You. Shine a spotlight on your brilliant ideas and insights with proper lighting. Your light source should be facing you, rather than behind you. And should be equally balanced (right and left). Be conscious of how natural light coming through windows changes throughout the day, and adjust your movable light sources accordingly.

6. Quiet the noise. Always use headphones. As Paul Wilhoit, Director of Enablement Programs at Salesforce, discovered, "Headphones are the best way to minimize people talking over each other. And to facilitate a productive meeting where everyone has the opportunity to be heard." Even simple headphones that plug directly into your computer will make a noticeable difference. If you're using wireless headphones, Charlie Isaacs recommends a "pair and a spare," so one set is always charging and at the ready.

7. Go external. One tip to replicate your office environment in your home office is to use an external monitor. Amanda Nelson, Sr. Director of Community Marketing at Salesforce, has been working from home since 2011. And she's discovered that using an external monitor and making it your primary view results in a better overall experience. "After testing lots of external monitors through the years," she shares, "I recommend the HP Envy ."

"Building is about getting around the obstacles that are presented to you," observes actor Jeremy Renner.

Evolve working from home from an obstacle to an oasis using these simple tips. And if you're feeling overwhelmed, implement one tip per day.  And in just one week, you will have transformed your work from home experience.


In part two of "How to set the stage for a successful work from home performance," we will share tips for how to deliver a high-stakes, high-impact presentation from your home office. What are you discovering as you work from home? We welcome your insights here or by joining Karen on Twitter.

This article was co-authored by Karen Mangia, vice president, customer and market insights, at Salesforce, Karen engages customers globally to discover new ways of creating success and growth together. From Executive Advisory Boards to strategic consulting engagements, her insights are central to Go-to-Market strategy, product development, marketing and branding. In addition, Karen influences industry thought leadership in her role as Chair of the Customer Experience Council for The Conference Board. Formerly responsible for Insight Innovation at Cisco Systems, she led a global team with oversight into Customer Satisfaction & Experience, Diversity Business Practices, and Global Offset & Countertrade. Karen is also the author of 'Success With Less' and a TEDx speaker.