The Video Conferencing Decorum: Is having the webcam on necessary for all virtual meetings?
Ever since the pandemic, we have found ourselves working from the comforts of our homes and attending more virtual meetings to stay connected with one another. The daily virtual meetings have made us accustomed to its’ decorum. Some of these includes having to have your webcam on at all time, dressing up appropriately and having to call in from a quiet, professional space in your homes. However, one of the issues surrounding the video conferencing etiquette is whether there is a need to have webcams on during the entire virtual meeting. Engagement, bandwidth issues and personality differences are some of the reasons that contributed to the argument of whether there is always a need to have your webcam on during the meeting. Follow Trish, Marketing Executive, as we dive into the issue of the video conferencing decorum through the perspective of an introvert…
I was awakened by the smell of petrichor on a cold Monday morning. Being a pluviophile and an introvert as I am, I couldn’t help but to enjoy the piquant weather while I sipped on my iced cold brew and get some work done in my humble abode. The process repeats every day ever since the Covid-19 pandemic. As an introvert, I began to enjoy working from home because I do not have to deal with the energy-sapping extroverts in the open space office and constantly being prevailed over by more vocal peers in meetings.
Having to work from home, I began to attend more virtual meetings than regular face to face meetings. Being an introvert, I do appreciate virtual meetings because I do not have to be conscious and worry about the fear of being the center of attention as I have my webcam off. Furthermore, having my webcam on during these virtual meetings makes me feel enervated and displaced. However, after attending countless of virtual meetings, I began to realise that almost half of my colleagues have their webcam on. This had got me thinking of the virtual meeting decorum: Is having the webcam on for all necessary during meetings?
As the saying goes, “curiosity kills the cat”, I began researching more in depth and asked my colleagues for their opinion. I too came across a post on LinkedIn discussing on the issue of the video conferencing decorum.
Drowning in a pool of opinions and concerns surrounding this issue, I began to realize that the argument of having your webcam on during all meetings is for everyone to have a deeper engagement level between their colleagues and clients. On the other side of the spectrum, some believe that having their webcam off is ideal because of reasons such as bandwidth issues, differing personalities and lack of conducive environment. Thus, below are some of the arguments and points surrounding on this issue.
Based on the opinions above and research done, I believe that engagement plays an important role in all aspects of the business ecosystem, especially when it comes to virtual meetings. Having your webcam on during virtual meetings helps to increase engagement between employees and clients. This is also because, when you have your webcam on, others can see non-verbal communication cues – the way you listen, look, move and react. These nonverbal cues can tell if the person you are communicating through virtual meetings are actually listening to you. When these verbal and nonverbal cues match up, it helps to increase trust, clarity and rapport. If it does not it will create tension, mistrust and confusion. Furthermore, research done by Mike Hanski shows that human beings are usually visually oriented and this stimulus helps to enhance focus, emotions and also attitude. Thus, having the webcam on can be an added advantage for professionals who are closing a deal with a client or for decision making meetings.
Bandwidth do play a part in the virtual meetings. With all of us working from home, not all are equipped with a strong Wi-Fi signal and might have insufficient bandwidth. Thus, many do experience having their video conferencing software crash and freeze due to this issue. This can cause virtual meetings to be delayed. Many opted to have their webcam off to avoid such incident during important virtual meetings. However, there are some video conferencing software such as Zoom with the capability to automatically optimize the bandwidth for the best experience based on the participants’ network. It too will automatically adjust for 3G, WiFi, or wired environments. Furthermore, Zoom enables you to turn off the group HD Video to avoid an overloaded bandwidth. This is one of the reasons why Zoom is often a preferred choice for most companies.
Upon asking for opinions on the issue, personality differences and surroundings is one of the points that I relate to the most. When it comes to personalities, some of us are extroverts while others are introverts. Most virtual meetings are catered to the extroverts while leaving the introverts behind, although this is rarely intentional. For instance, when it comes to virtual meetings, an extroverted individual will most likely thrive in meetings where all webcams are on so that they are able to see everyone and also where there is active vocal discussions. However, for introverts, they usually prefer to off their webcam because they do not want to be in the spotlight and will often speak up when prompted. Thus, virtual meetings that requires the webcam to be on can be an issue for introverts. Nevertheless, a research done by Psychology Today have found that introverts too can thrive in virtual meetings through communication tools such as ‘’electronic hand-raising’’ and ‘’chat features’’. Video conferencing software such as Zoom has the raise hand feature that allows participants in the virtual meetings to raise their hands to ask question or even to present any ideas during the virtual meetings.
As for surroundings wise, some are embarrassed to have their webcams on because they do not have a dedicated work space. Furthermore, there can be distractions such as noise in the neighbourhood or even family members walking behind in the background, causing disruptions to important virtual meetings. For instance, a survey done by Zippia have found that almost 9% of employees working from home are often distracted by their family members. In order to solve this issue, video conferencing software such as Zoom offers virtual backgrounds that will help to remove any background distractions such as a messy room or even walking family members.
With all the opinions and research stated above, it gives me a more balanced perspective on this whole issue. Being an introvert, I did not take into consideration of the benefit of having to have your webcam on during meetings. I used to have my webcam off because it made me feel secured and not have to worry about my surroundings. Yet, on the other side of the spectrum, having the webcam on throughout virtual meetings helps to increase engagement between clients and colleagues. Furthermore, it forces us to take the meeting more seriously. This had made me realised that it wouldn’t be called virtual meeting if it only involves discussing verbally without seeing your colleagues and clients. Also, it helps to foster a closer connection with our colleagues and clients through these visual aspects of virtual meetings. Thus, the answer is clear, having your webcam on during meetings is necessary.
With that being said, I feel that all of us are experiencing the social distancing paradox- being close and connected to each other while practicing social distancing through video conferencing equipment and software. The constant virtual meetings during the work from home period has shaped the video conferencing etiquette and has made us accustomed to these formalities, making it a norm. However, some of us are still adjusting to these ‘widely accepted’ practices of having to have our webcam on during virtual meetings and due to factors, such as personalities differences and bandwidth issue, others might have differing opinions. Nevertheless, there are video conferencing software like Zoom that helps to solve this issue by introducing virtual backgrounds to accommodate to people who do not have a dedicated space at home. Also, there is the chat box feature in Zoom that enables those who are less vocal to type in their comments.
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