A new ‘background blur’ feature can help remote workers blend in

“By blurring the background, the new Microsoft feature puts the focus back on the person talking, not on where the person is having that conversation.”

Last year, the young daughter of Robert Kelly confidently stomped into her Dad’s room, interrupting her father’s Skype interview with the BBC. The moment she walked into the background of her father’s live interview, she became a symbol of the struggles that parents working from home face everywhere. A home has variables you cannot control. When you need to do video conferences from your room, you never know when a rambunctious child might pop in to derail a conversation.

‘Background blur’ can level video playing field for remote employees

One way to make video conferences easier is to remove the distractions altogether. Kelly is an example that Microsoft uses in a demonstration of its new Background Blur feature that is now available to its customers. The artificially-intelligent technology uses facial detection to blur the background of your surroundings if you video chat on the company’s Teams group messaging app. “All Teams customers can remove distractions and focus your video on what matters most. … (You are welcome, BBC Dad),” the company states in an announcement.

If you cannot blur your background, you will need to be your own visual editor and choose a neutral background for your video. You want your space to look tidy so that the coats piled behind you do not build a story that is different than the one you seek to tell. When you are working from the comfort of home, you still want to communicate that you are professional, and that can be trickier when your bed multitasks as a desk.

Ultimately, what is behind you is just as important as what you are saying on a video chat when your face and space is magnified. By blurring the background, the new Microsoft feature puts the focus back on the person talking, not on where the person is having that conversation. For some remote employees working in environments with curious children, this neutral background will be a relief.

Monica Torres|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at mtorres@theladders.com.