4 Work-From-Home Tech Tricks I Learned From Twitch Streamers

If You’re Ever Feeling Stuck, Head To The Twitch Streamers Directory And Find Someone Who Is Streaming Something You’re Interested In

4 Work-From-Home Tech Tricks I Learned From Twitch Streamers

Like Many Americans in office jobs, I started working from home in March due to Covid-19, and I haven’t been back to the office since. As a proud Zoomer, or member of Generation Z, I grew up with video calling and instant messaging as academic tools, and I have worked with remote employees during all of my internships. Still, I quickly realized that I was out of my depth and turned to the true professionals: YouTubers and streamers Hear me out: This is a group of people who have worked from their bedrooms or home offices by choice for years. Whether they are sharing video games or hobbies, or just hanging out and chatting, their work is based on sharing themselves and/or a digital presentation with an audience that they must keep engaged. With that in mind, here are four things I’ve learned about working from home from streamers

Be Aware of Your Stamina

We’ve likely all heard about Zoom fatigue and our limited ability to watch a bunch of little faces on screen, but stamina is about a lot more than the length of the meetings. In a time when a lot of people are dealing with more distractions during the work day, the first question should be, Does this even need to be a meeting? A lot of streamers also have YouTube channels, and certain types of games and projects will always be uploaded to that platform instead of being streamed. Some things have a lot of dead time that can be edited out, or aren’t dynamic enough to keep a live chat engaged. The same principle can be applied to your office-based work. Is this a topic where it’d be helpful for people to prepare and process their contributions? Is there a benefit to having a live discussion about this? If it’s going to be a meeting, make a goal that is clearly defined at the beginning and stick to it. And mostly importantly, know when to call a meeting even if you haven’t accomplished what you wanted. If you’ve hit a wall on the issue at hand, you are not going to come up with the answer in the 118th minute of an hour-long meeting. I have attended many streams titled “Finishing the game today!” in which the game is not finished. Probably because it’s been almost seven hours, the streamers is hungry, two of the moderators are in a time zone where it’s 3 am, and everyone’s focus is waning. That means it’s time to wrap up for today, and you should do your coworkers the same favor when you’re facilitating. Your Furniture Is As Important As Your Tech

I’m biased because I was diagnosed with a serious nerve issue while I was working on this article, but your office furniture is very important. More important than your headphones and your microphone and all the stuff you were expecting in this article. If you don’t have a dedicated desk and office chair, it’s time.

I just bought an Uplift automated standing desk, a portion of which my job paid for, and it’s amazing. I had one of these at a past internship, so it’s not actually something I was introduced to by streamers, but as someone who also spends 12-plus hours at my desk each day, I understand why they’re so popular. I keep it at 25.3 inches for sitting, a solid 5 inches lower than a standard desk, and it has been life-changing for my wrists. Also, it has a huge whiteboard top, which is one of the only things I’ve missed from the office. I’ve been on the Logitech universal system for peripherals since high school, when a friend bought me a wireless mouse for Christmas after I expressed an interest in 3D modeling. Now I have the futuristic MX Vertical Mouse and the MX Keys keyboard. I honestly don’t know why we’ve ever made computer mice any other way—it’s so much easier on your wrists to use the “handshake” position. And then there are desk chairs. I had a DXRacer knockoff with Purple cushions attached for a while, but after being told point-blank by a neurosurgeon that ergonomics were especially important for me, I decided to upgrade. I bought Jacksepticeye’s desk chair, the Herman Miller Embody, on my first day back from the holidays. It was $1,400 on sale.

It’s arguably the most cringey thing I’ve ever done in relation to someone I follow online, and definitely the most expensive, but I did my research, and of the brands recommended, Herman Miller is the only one with a local showroom. I went, and I sat in all of the chairs, and the aggressively supportive Embody was the best choice for me. I did the YouTube stan thing for a year, and it will haunt me forever, so I tried to buy a slightly different configuration just for the sake of my dignity, but it was much more expensive. So now I have literally the same desk chair as Jacksepticeye, even though it cost more than a paycheck for me. I don’t recommend that unless you also have a weirdly shaped spine, but I do recommend investing in a high-quality chair that you try out before you buy it. You deserve it. As quarantine drags on, I’ve seen a lot of Facebook ads for small pieces of equipment to improve your video calls. If the number one goal is that you can contribute to meetings and be understood by your coworkers, clip-on lights and mini webcams shouldn’t be the first thing to buy. Consider upgrading your setup in this order.

  1. Wear Headphones

If you’re not wearing headphones to every single call, that’s the first thing to fix. Headphones prevent echo. Some video programs have digital echo cancellation, but it works inconsistently, and if you are having an echo problem you probably can’t hear it. But your coworkers can, and they want to end you. So wear headphones.

  1. Your Microphone Ensures People Hear You Clearly

By now most headphones have a microphone built in, but the quality can be questionable. Next time you have a free moment, connect your headphones to your phone and record yourself talking while you move around at your desk. Does your voice stay clear throughout? If not, this could be the time to invest in a USB microphone. I just upgraded to the Elgato Wave:3, which was highly recommended if you want to sound nice, but not enough to spend more than $200. I can mute directly on the mic with visual confirmation, which is game-changing as someone who is always multitasking, and therefore unable to use application-specific keyboard shortcuts. Also it’s built-in limiter means my coworkers can’t hear me chewing, which was a serious insecurity of mine with my cheaper Blue Snowball iCE, so I’m happy.

  1. Add Cool, Diffuse Lighting in Front of You

The lighting in your home is likely going to look warm on camera, so a cooler light will cancel it out to give you decent looking color. If you’re looking at tech specs, something between 4,500 and 6,500 Kelvin will mimic natural light. The most straightforward option is a small key light. Companies like Elgato and Neweer make low-profile lights designed to fit into any space, and recently mini key lights that clamp directly onto your laptop have become popular. You could also go for a smart light—I have a LIFX Beam and a floor lamp with the LIFX A19 pointed at my desk. There are infinite ways to optimize smart lights for your own work habits starting at only $50, and I highly recommend them. Whatever you choose, make sure the light is dimmable. The amount of light you need will depend on your setup, how you’re sitting, and sometimes even the clothing you’re wearing.

  1. Get Better Headphones

If you’re in the position to get a pair of over-ear Bluetooth headphones with digital noise cancellation, it’s worth it. I have the Sony WH-100MX3, and I love them a lot. I also realized that they are a pretty popular choice for content creators after buying them, which may or may not have caused a small existential crisis. (I definitely spelled “bourgeoisie” wrong but it’s fine. These things happen in moments of crisis.) Bluetooth allows you to leave your desk and still hear what’s going on, while digital noise cancellation helps isolate you from distractions. One thing to note is that if you have bulky plastic glasses like I do, this will impact the comfort of over-ear headphones.

  1. Get Your Aesthetic(TM)

The ideal aesthetic depends a lot on the culture of your workplace and personal preference. If you’re familiar with Room Rater, you’ll have seen how strongly people can feel about these sorts of things, but for most environments you can keep it relatively simple. If you worked somewhere where you dressed in business casual, or formal in the olden days, go for clean lines and a few key personal items. I have limited options in my bedroom, but I try to turn my camera toward the only decent-looking wall in the room. In a more casual environment, you can have a space that looks a bit more lived in. There are a bunch of streamers that have many more personal effects in their stream spaces, but still keep a cohesive aesthetic. Gab Smolders, KickThePJ and Ludwig all come to mind as good examples of this. These setups feel like being on FaceTime with a friend in a very good way. It might be a spicy take to put this after aesthetic, but if you’re doing the type of high-stakes presentations where 1080p really matters, you probably have already upgraded. Personally, I didn’t care enough about this to really invest, so I have Elgato’s EpocCam app, which converts your phone into an HD webcam for $7.99. I do look crystal-clear when I use it, and that’s enough for me.

Prioritize Clean Transitions

This one may seem silly or obvious, but it’s so important. When livestreaming for an audience, you want to keep transitions clean and dead time to a minimum, just like an in-person event. This means opening necessary tabs and programs ahead of time, only sharing your screen when you have the specific thing up and ready, and being confident that you have the right mic, camera, and audio output selected before anyone starts talking. It’s hard to pull off, but if you can do it, it’ll make meetings easier for you and your coworkers. To get to know your setup, try the following: Spend some time with the audio and video settings for your video meeting tool. Learn which options are devices you actually use, and which, if any, options are computer drivers and tools that can be ignored. Get used to switching inputs and outputs quickly. Get familiar with the screen-sharing window. While sharing your desktop is the easiest in a panic, it’s the hardest on your computer and has the highest likelihood of accidentally sharing something compromising. Practice sharing the correct windows until you feel you can do it without much thought.

Create “workspaces” for your screens so  you don’t have to think about what windows to position where. Similar to how an editing program like Adobe Premiere Pro will let you change how the software looks depending on what you’re working on, you can likely do the same thing with your work. I have a setup for when I’m editing student writing, one for when I’m doing general work that requires only one browser window, and one for meetings. This will allow you to get used to where things are, so that switching becomes automatic. A well-structured and -produced system for virtual meetings is essentially the same as a streaming setup, and it can feel complex and overwhelming. However, even a few key changes can make a world of difference as we approach one year since the pandemic sent many Americans home. Try them out, and if you’re ever feeling stuck, head to the Twitch directory and find someone who is streaming something you’re interested in. (Yes, there are lots of video games, but there are also people cooking, making music, and crafting on the platform.) Enjoy the content while also taking note of how they’re set up—you might learn something.

This news was originally published at Wired