To Video or Not to Video: Should You Use a Camera for Virtual Meetings?
You’re working from home now, due to the pandemic. The good news? No commute. The bad news? You still have to primp and preen for your next video conference, so you don’t look like holy hell in front of the people you work with and, in some cases, the people you work for. After all, you don’t want them thinking you slept in the park!
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You may have also contracted what I call “Zoom Fatigue,” which, yes, is far better than battling COVID-19, but still irritating as all get out. The main symptom of “Zoom Fatigue” is headaches from squinting at all those tiny boxes on your monitor and trying to figure out who’s who — especially if some folks have quit shaving.
But let’s step back a moment and come at this from another angle. Why do we have to be on webcams at all? Why are so many remote workers forced to use a camera for virtual meetings? Because someone (most likely a person who never worked remotely before) has confused the concept of building relationships with actually getting something done.
On one level, I get it. Most who worked in offices are used to physically seeing other people, so, since the technology is available, why not do video interaction so there’s still some face time involved? The truth is that aspect of webcams is important for team bonding, but here’s a way to balance the social with the practical: Have everyone keep their webcams on for maybe three minutes or so to start a videoconference, then step back and let the person running the meeting (or someone presenting content) take up the whole screen.
Forcing everyone to be on camera sucks bandwidth, creates distractions, and cuts down on productivity.
Frankly, there is NO reason for everyone’s heads to be visible the whole time. All that does is make people feel obligated to stare at their webcams during the entire meeting, so they look like they’re listening. Now, imagine an in-person meeting where everybody stared at everyone else in the same way. That would be just plain creepy! In a conference room setting, people are generally looking down at their notepads or printed material. They don’t stare each other down like Keanu Reeves and whoever he’s going to shoot next in a John Wick movie.
To me, forcing everyone to be on camera sucks bandwidth, creates distractions, and cuts down on productivity. It’s simply not necessary.
Unless it is.
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Maybe your team has a few unruly members — people who don’t make a contribution during meetings and seem otherwise engaged. In that case, you may want to set a video compliance protocol by making sure everyone’s keyboard and desktop are visible during the meeting. You don’t necessarily have to go to this extreme, especially if the perpetrators are VPs (when you make the boss look like an idiot, they don’t appreciate it). But if video is necessary just to make sure Bill in accounting isn’t building the Eiffel Tower out of matchsticks and ignoring the conversation about overdue invoices, then video it will be!
So don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your virtual co-workers about automatically assuming every interaction must involve face time. You may find they agree with you — which means everyone can feel free to look like they slept in the park. For the sake of your family and loved ones, however, maybe avoid smelling like you did.
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