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  • Writer's pictureHannah Walker

Video Conferencing Etiquette: The Camera Dilemma

Is it rude to have your camera off during meetings? A year long question with many varying answers. Both individuals and companies have all formed different expectations of zoom meeting etiquette over the course of moving online. For many, the decision isn’t made purely because they feel rude. Some like the formality and connection of seeing each other on screen. Others want to avoid feeling judged for their workspace or appearance in a time of uncertainty and stress. There are many factors that influence the actions of video conference participants.

It can’t be denied that having your camera on benefits other attendees in many ways. The speaker can see if you are focused or engaged in the conversation. Allowing eye contact and facial expressions to be seen also offers as close to an in-person experience as possible. Social cues are very important when creating engaging discussions. Seeing hand gestures and expressions not only helps you understand tone, but it also allows you to know when someone is about to speak. This can really clear up any confusion or frustration within the discussion. These interactions can actually be crucial for certain people in order to participate. In our previous podcast episode, we discussed issues such as this for deaf people when dealing with the limitations of online meetings. You can find out more here.

However, having cameras turned off has been found to reduce the effects of zoom fatigue, lessen the anxiety of being viewed on screen and even reduce carbon dioxide emissions (a whole other discussion). So, are these benefits not worth taking into consideration when discussing how rude one is from the other? This is a strange time where workers are having to experience their home and work lives merge. Cramped rooms, shared space, children or pets, workers have had to somehow find a way to balance everything and it’s not easy for many. So it would be argued it’s within the company's interest not to add further stress onto their employees.

There are so many factors to consider when deciding to keep the camera on or off, it shouldn’t only be discussed just because it is felt to be rude. Perhaps getting a general consensus from your team on how they feel about cameras would help. Or have the Monday board meeting with cameras on and the more informal discussions voice only. It’s important to consider individuals with disabilities or difficult circumstances or feelings of isolation. Don’t consider what others think of your work etiquette, but rather do what’s comfortable for the team.

Regardless which side of the fence you sit on, here are a few universal rules of etiquette to avoid being rude and show you’re engaged in your virtual meetings:

  1. Keep yourself on mute when other people are talking - we’ve already discussed home working life and know there are plenty of distracting background noises.

  2. Use the messaging chat box to ask a question or add information - it won’t interrupt the speaker and it shows you are listening.

  3. Turn off social media or other noisy tabs - again it can be very distracting and you won’t be tempted to turn your attention away from the meeting to read it!

  4. Finally, treat everyone with kindness and respect - ask how their day is going and let people have time to speak. Also, don’t be annoyed when the meeting is interrupted, like a small child coming into the room. You’ll also have distractions at home and they shouldn’t be judged. It’s all part of home working life!

What are your thoughts on video etiquette? What works well for you or your team?

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