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November 29, 2022

Remote Meetings - with or without video?

Lisa Panke

&

UX/UI Designer & Webflow Developer
Buffalo, NY

Once a week, I am having a meeting with several stakeholders from a project - all remote. I click on the meeting link, add my name, and wait until the client lets me into the virtual meeting space. As soon as I enter, I mute myself and switch on my camera... But wait, nobody else has their video on. I am just staring at black rectangles with or without a picture and ask myself: Am I supposed to turn on my camera or not? I unmute myself and awkwardly ask the question. Some heads appear, some do not and so we enter the with or without video meeting dilemma.

In this article, I am exploring the pros and cons of switching your video on during a remote meeting no matter if it takes place on Zoom, Teams, Slack, or GoTo. How does it feel to speak to pitch-black screens? Does it create a connection to see each other without really making eye contact? What are the benefits of video conferencing vs “just a call”? Let’s find out!

The Pros and Cons of Clicking that Video Icon

Pro

According to Psychology Today, “The belief is that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken.”. Does that mean that meetings without video are only 45% effective (and this blog post is only 7% 😅)? At ZEAL, we love being with our team. Switching on the camera during standup is a no-brainer because we actively want to foster connection, build relationships, and encourage collaboration. We love, that even at a distance, we can create a sense of closeness by putting a face to a voice.

Next to the big advantage that video conferencing is more affordable than actually being in the office or meeting up at a central location once in a while, collaboration with tools like FigJam or Miro is much more fun, when every participant is visually present.

Switching your camera on promotes participation and encourages engagement. Have you noticed that you lean back more in a meeting where your camera is off than in a meeting where you actively sit straight up because everyone can see you? Posture can make or break your motivation.

Power Pose


We recommend turning on your camera especially when you are leading a meeting or presenting, and when you are meeting people for the first time that you are likely to meet again.

Con

Have you ever counted how many times you look at yourself during a video call? According to a study by the American Psychological Association turning off your camera in virtual meetings boost productivity and makes you feel less tired. The study suggests that taking away their video frees people from focusing too much on their own faces and allows them to focus more on what is being said. As a person who has experienced social anxiety on and offline before, I totally agree even though building a connection with my colleagues face-to-face has helped me to overcome it.

Zoom Tip: When I enter a meeting and feel too self-conscious, I remove myself from the grid view. To do that, click on the three dots in the top right corner of your video and select Hide Self View. To check my background (and my current state of hair), I enable the “Always show video preview dialog when joining a video meeting” option, and “Stop my video when joining a meeting” in my Zoom settings.

Hide Self View on Zoom


By the way, did you know, that Zoom allows you to touch up your appearance for a bad skin day or when you have those bags under your eyes? Exploring your settings can be a rewarding adventure!

Speaking of things you rather hide. Not having your camera enabled, gives you the opportunity to wear whatever you want, sit in front of any background, or blush when you speak up at the same time as your colleague and accidentally create a battle of “You go!.. No, you go!”.

My incentive to write this article stems from a recent experience of feeling less intimidated by a stakeholder after they decided to switch on their video. We all know people with busy schedules who love to be direct without being explicitly rude, which can make you feel like you’re under attack. Seeing somebody’s facial expressions, and non-verbal behavior, seeing them think, doubt, or even empathize, can make a huge difference and might turn a daunting call into a pleasant experience. Oh wait, so turning your camera on to reduce anxiety is actually a pro! Let’s roll with it and end this paragraph on a positive note. Shall we?

When to switch on your camera and when not

At ZEAL, we always try to switch on our cameras, but there are occasions when we choose not to. Here are our Top 10 reasons(/excuses) for turning our camera off:

  1. You are walking the dog
  2. You are roaming around which is distracting to other participants
  3. Your webcam isn’t working
  4. You really don’t look good today and you better hide it
  5. You are the only one having their camera on and it makes you feel awkward
  6. Zoom fatigue because you are an introvert
  7. You have to go to the bathroom
  8. Your wifi is slow
  9. You are eating and don’t like to be watched
  10. Or simply, you really don’t feel like it today

All the wrong reasons for turning on your camera

While doing my research for this article, I stumbled upon seriously questionable reasons to turn on your camera, which should honestly make you reevaluate your work environment and the people you are working for:

  1. You have to have your camera on as proof of your commitment to your boss
  2. Your boss needs you to turn your camera on to micro-manage and control you
  3. Your company doesn’t feel inclusive, or you face any form of discrimination or racism

Speak up about it! You are probably not the only one who suffers from a lack of trust, freedom, and equality in your workplace.

What’s best practice?

Whether your company needs a more flexible approach to cameras during remote meetings or a gentle push towards more connection and collaboration is for you to decide. Switching your camera on during a meeting can make people less scared, and hiding your own video can increase productivity and awareness of what is happening and said during a call. Making video optional is not only facilitating a kinder and more compassionate working culture but is also better for people’s mental health according to research.

At the end of the day, we are all still exploring the virtual space, adapting, and growing with it. At ZEAL, we encourage our team to craft their work settings and workplaces that work for them instead of against them.

How do you feel about remote meetings with or without video? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo by visuals on Unsplash

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