‘Can you hear me now?’
‘What about now?’
‘Can anyone hear me?’
‘Is there anyone out there?’
These are both the opening lines from a transcript of many a Zoom call and also how you would usually start a séance.
Once you’re up and running, there’s the question of whether or not to have the cameras turned on. Given that I spend most of my day in my pyjamas, I’m all for leaving them off and I’m not alone on that front.
What was once a quick phone call or an email often turns into a Zoom call, meaning employees are spending more time in video meetings than ever before.
The BBC has now laid out the case for turning off your Zoom camera and leaving it off:
Having a camera on can often be seen as a sign of engagement; proof an employee really is committed to their work. But experts also suggest turning off cameras could, along with mitigating the annoyance of always appearing on screen, improve worker wellbeing – and makes meetings more efficient, to boot.
Right, nonsense aside, let’s talk efficiency:
…leaving cameras on for everything can take a toll and exacerbate Zoom fatigue: a tiredness linked to factors like fixating on your own on-camera appearance and the cognitive strain of trying to pick up on non-verbal cues that are much easier to interpret in person…
These distractions may also reduce productivity, if workers are “focusing on themselves and how they might be being perceived” rather than the meeting itself, says Winny Shen, associate professor of organisation studies at York University, Canada.
With cameras turned off, workers may be more engaged in the meeting and also able to multitask as they listen.
Slowly but surely, the tide is turning as bosses realise that employees working from home doesn’t necessarily mean a drop-off in productivity.
Research has shown that a camera-optional approach is generally better for mental health. However, it’s a work in progress and there is still some resistance.
Consider this, via Axios, from April:
92% of executives at medium to large firms think workers who turn cameras off during meetings don’t have long-term futures at the company, according to a new survey from Vyopta, a software company…
In a separate finding from Vyopta, 93% of execs said that people who frequently turn off their cameras probably aren’t paying attention.
What an outdated way of thinking.
Sure, we’ve all turned the camera off so we can wander to the kitchen and make ourselves a quick brekkie. At the same time, the laptop often comes along for the ride and we’re still dialled in while doing so.
An approach that has been put forward as satisfying both employers and employees is explicitly stating what sort of Zoom calls require cameras on and which calls can be done with them off.
For example, for one of those get-to-know-you team meetings, cameras on, whereas quick catch-up calls (that could really have been an email) come with the understanding that everyone turns their cameras off.
Nobody wants to stare into the eyes of a coworker at 9AM. Make it stop.
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