Many of us have been working at our kitchen tables stacked with borrowed office equipment during the past few weeks, as lockdown measures are enforced to stop the spread of covid-19.
CNN anchors have been no exception. In a new show ‘WFH New Reality’, they are sharing tips and tricks on working remotely and talk about the impact on businesses from HR to cybersecurity.
As other programmes between news coverage got cancelled, Richard Quest, CNN Business editor-at-large and host of the new show, saw the opportunity to cover the minutia of remote working to engage audiences.
"All everybody was doing was using the phrase WFH (an acronym for working from home) and everybody was writing articles on the best way to do it, the best technology, the etiquette. I hadn’t seen a television programme solely dedicated to covering it, so we decided to give it a try."
But how do you produce a brand new television show when most of the team is indeed working from home?
For Holly Brown, senior producer for CNN International, there was a quick realisation that they can use their own teams' experience to tell the story.
They reached out to colleagues in Hong Kong, who had already been under lockdown for several weeks to get their insights and considerations for production.
"Many of them had lived through SARS and so that region took it very seriously from the beginning.
"They were thinking ‘how am I getting that thing that we needed that was on a server which I now don’t have access to’, so we were making sure that we had all the access we needed from home to get into our servers for old video or things that had already been shot out in the field."
CNN: WFH New Reality
As with all news programming, production has had to adapt to the new situation, with the increasing use of video conferencing apps like Zoom when doing live interviews.
"We just embrace the idea that we’re working from home too and I think viewers understand that if they can see you’re on a video conference, they expect a certain glitch or quality difference."
Brown also said that there has been an increasing need to film certain parts of the show using mobile phones, such as filming a teapot on a stove when discussing the topic of being distracted whilst working remotely. Although this footage may not be up to the same standards as a broadcast camera it is often of decent quality, especially considering many phones now shoot in 4K resolution.
Whilst Quest was fortunate enough to borrow a high-quality industry camera prior to lockdown, that created a new set of challenges.
"You get a broadcast-quality picture but that now means you have to have broadcast quality lighting, otherwise the picture will look bad.
"You can get away with a lot of bad pictures when you’re using an iPhone, but once you’ve got a real camera, if the lighting isn’t good, it becomes very noticeable."
As a result, Quest had to invest in some quality lighting from a local store to make sure the set up in his ‘home studio’ is suitable for broadcast.
CNN: WFH New Reality
As an anchor, it also gave Quest a challenge of getting the shot just right for broadcast, taking him back to days where he had to produce content alone.
"There are lots of little things that the cameramen do but I’ve never had to do myself, and having to suddenly do some of these things myself is a real challenge. Now I realise how difficult it is to do it!"
One of the more positive results of the current situation, Quest explained, is that interviewees they wish to speak to are more likely to be available given no one is able to travel or be ‘out of the office’.
In coming episodes, Quest aims to look at whether the arrangements that organisations have put in place for working remotely can survive, and there will be big questions to answer once the pandemic ends.
"Producers, for instance, have proved that they can write and produce from home. There’s a certain argument that there’s a benefit from being in the office with colleagues so you get that interaction. But what do we do when a writer says ‘I’d like to work from home Mondays and Fridays’?"
Those reporting on the crisis day after day start to feel a negative impact on their mental health, something which Quest can relate to from his time covering the Iraq War.
"I was sitting on the set and I had this all going into my ear every hour of every day for weeks, and it was very easy to become totally and utterly depressed by it all."
He suggested limiting your news consumption to just three hours a day; split into three one-hour segments scattered throughout the day. In between that time, try watching light-hearted and enjoyable content when you can to take your attention away from the news, especially before going to bed.