I can’t find a Webcam anywhere! “Really? Not in today’s world”, I hear you say. But no joke, this happened to me, and… wofome was created as a result.
It’s January 2020, and I’ve just finished 18 years working for a major telecom company. I was itching to move on. Who wouldn’t after that long?
Freedom at last!
So I treat my family to the holiday we had always talked about – snow in the Alps in northern Italy. We had a great time, visiting some really nice places like Bolzano, Florence, Arezzo and Rome (our last stop).
As luck would have it (though we were clueless at the time), we wrap up the holiday just before the pandemic hits. You might recall northern Italy was an early victim of the Covid19 onslaught.
Back home in Melbourne (Australia), oceans away from the surging virus, naively thinking we are safe, I plan my future.
Planning my work-from-home office Setup
I have practised working from home for many years. My corporate roles have permitted this. Now, no longer working, and with the pandemic looming, I prepare for an extended stay at home.
Firstly, I need to equip myself with a new laptop (since I had given back all my tech stuff upon exiting this most recent job). I go ahead and buy a new laptop from a reputable online retailer. I make sure it includes an in-built webcam.
Here’s the rub. When you set up a home office, you find that one choice affects other choices. The following is an excellent example of this.
My first priority – Wellbeing
I know I will spend a lot of time working in front of my new computer, so I need an adjustable sit-stand desk to allow frequent position changes. This is what the health experts recommend.
When sitting (or standing) at a desk, with your back and head upright, your forearms should be at 90 degrees to your body, straight out from the elbows.
The desk should be at the same height as your hands. Your keyboard and mouse (or trackpad) should be at this level too. The top edge of your screen, however, should be at eye level.
Look at the image below. You’ll notice a gap between the top of the screen and your eye level. Even the biggest laptops don’t eliminate this gap entirely.
You can tilt the screen at an angle, so it faces upwards. But this introduces two new problems;
- You tilt your head downwards, which will cause neck strain over extended periods, and;
- If you do Zoom video calls, your audience will be looking up your nostrils, with your ceiling as your backdrop.
Even worse, if you lean forwards, you’ll also cause lower-back strain.
What to do?
One remedy is to add a riser – to lift your laptop above desk level. A stack of books or a cardboard box works well. (purpose-built products also exist). Whilst this overcomes the problems mentioned above, it creates a new issue. Your laptop keyboard and trackpad are now well above desk level and not where your hands are.
If you use a separate mouse and keyboard, you can overcome this problem, as I did. Here’s my setup.
Raising the top edge of my screen to eye level. Note additional keyboard and mouse.
New monitor – and webcam
It’s now April 2020. I realise far-away Australia will not be spared the pandemic onslaught after all. Locally, lockdowns are being imposed, and retail is shuttering up.
I find my laptop screen is a bit small for some of the broad-spread document work I do, but I still need a portable computer for my work on the road.
Time for a second, bigger monitor. I buy an inexpensive one. It doesn’t include a webcam.
My new setup is; laptop on the desk, lid closed, with an external keyboard and mouse, and the new monitor. When I go on the road, I just unplug my laptop, and away I go.
This new configuration raises the question about my existing webcam. It’s in the laptop lid, which is closed most of the time!
Truth be told, pre-installed laptop webcams are not the highest quality. As I will be doing lots of video calls, I decide to get a better stand-alone webcam.
I go to the nearest mall to look for a good quality one.
Separate (larger) monitor. Laptop closed, with separate keyboard and mouse. Note additional (better quality webcam) at top of the screen.
Where are all the work-from-home retail outlets?
By now, the pandemic is raging across the world. Australia is no longer a safe haven. Millions of office workers are told to work from home or worse, have been laid off. The demand for home office equipment skyrockets. Suppliers and logistics companies are overwhelmed and all available inventory is drying up.
Every retailer I visit tells me the same thing: “sorry we are sold out of webcams“. It’s a clear message; demand has outstripped supply. Online, the situation is no better.
While I desperately hunt for a webcam, I think about other items I need for my work from home setup. Best to grab things while I still have the chance.
At this point, I realise there are no retail outlets dedicated to work-from-home (Wofomer*) needs.
Here’s a thought: If you ride a bicycle – you can easily find hundreds of retail stores (physical or online) specialised in all-things-cycling. Not so for working-from-home. At best, you end up visiting four or five different retail specialisations.
To name a few;
- Computer stores for computer equipment
- Furniture stores for office furnishing
- Photography/Video stores for lighting, webcam mounts and backdrops
- Audio stores for suitable microphones and acoustic dampening
- Signage stores for signage and branding
- Fitness and health stores for ergonomic equipment
Here’s a further thought: Are there more cyclists than Wofomers?
(* a Wofomer is a work-from-home-er)
wofome is born
With so many people now working from home, I see a need for something dedicated to people who work from home.
And so… wofome is born.
Oh… and I eventually solve my webcam problem. The shops have sold out of webcams, but one store still has a web streaming cam, which is primarily used by YouTubers.
It’s an excellent camera, probably overkill for your average Zoom call.
Still, hey… maybe I’ll start doing some wofome YouTubes too.
In this story, I could have done things differently, and you may have. I was in panic-buying mode given the arrival of the pandemic.
But thankfully, it was the spark that inspired me to create wofome.
Lastly, you may have noticed I touched on some topics in this story that we’ve now made into dedicated wofome blog topics.
For example, home office setup (Setup), choice of technology (Technology), your wellbeing (Wellbeing), and how you come across on video calls (Image).
wofome is building out these blog topics now. Your input will help.
My mission is: To create a place people can go – to improve their own or other’s remote working experiences.
by Sean from wofome