I'm not a celebrity, and yet these days I find myself in front of the "camera" for most of my day. Hairbrush, lipstick, and scrunchies. Those items are at my fingertips nowadays so that I can be camera-ready for work meetings. (I'm not alone here, am I?)
But appearances aside, leaders nowadays are often struggling to toe the line of maximizing "engagement" by requiring everyone to have their cameras on during zoom, or respecting individual preferences and allowing people to choose. The latter sometimes result in talking to virtual black squares with a nice circle or photo in it. Hardly personal or engaging.
So, why are some clicking that camera "On" toggle, and what can leaders do to create the best Zoom culture for their teams? Let's understand why people may want to stay off camera.
1. Zoom fatigue: "I'm tired. I need a break"
Now commonly known as "Zoom fatigue", employees are tired of being ON all the time.
To manage this, managers can identify certain meetings that would be more beneficial, or even necessary, with video on (for example, one-on-one's, or when the person is leading/presenting), and let employees choose how they show up in other types of meetings.
2. Privacy: "I don't have a good home office space. I don't want people seeing my bedroom/kitchen/garage/closet." "My spouse/roommate/kids/pets are around me."
Life and work are now intertwined, and suddenly people have to decide which corner of their homes and life they are willing to share with colleagues.
Managers need to be aware that employees can have different levels of comfort in exposing their lives, and can manage this by: understanding the employees' concerns, consistently creating a psychologically safe and non-judgmental environment, and offering tactical tips such as using blurred or photo backgrounds.
3. Focus: "I listen better without video."
Some employees actually listen and work better without having video on. Having the camera on may be distracting for them, as they feel observed and feel like they have to be "on" during that time.
Managers should determine who on their team may have this tendency or preference, and work with them to identify ways to either minimize the distraction, or come to agree on which meetings are more productive for the whole team to have video on.
Managers and leaders of organizations should have clear business reasoning and set clear expectations (e.g. video on, off, on-for-specific-situations, or employee's choice) on modes of communication. For employees who have concerns on the expectations, managers should address it one-on-one: to understand the root of the employees' concern, and to share the importance and reasoning of having video on.
This should NOT hurt an employee's career, unless this uncovers a root cause that impacts their role or career.
Bottom Line: It's not about Zoom, or the camera. It's about clarity on business outcomes, work culture, and personal effectiveness.
Are you camera shy on Zoom? Or a leader dealing with camera-shy teammates? What are you seeing?