Apr 15, 2022 - Technology

Trouble for workers who turn cameras off

Animated illustration of the Zoom logo with the two o's in the middle closing like a pair of eyes, then snapping back open.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Stunning stat: 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.

Why it matters: The data adds grist to the worry that hybrid and remote employees have expressed about the post-pandemic world — that those who choose to work from home some, most or all of the time will be out-of-sight, out-of-mind for bosses.

  • In a separate finding from Vyopta, 93% of execs said that people who frequently turn off their cameras probably aren't paying attention.
  • Those employees are perceived as less engaged with their work overall.

The big picture: The majority of companies around the world are moving to a hybrid working model, which means more video meetings in the future.

  • But the casual, camera-off and microphone-muted way of taking a meeting might be harming employees' career prospects.

Context: As we've reported, there are a slew of reasons people hide their faces during video meetings.

  • We're dealing with "Zoom fatigue." It's tiring to stare at a screen and look at yourself all day, critiquing your appearance in real time.
  • We're working at home, which means family members or roommates may be around. We may have to care for children or elderly parents during a call — or we may not feel comfortable showing our bedroom or a messy kitchen.
  • Our schedules are flexible, so we might be joining a meeting in our comfies or after a workout.

On top of that, many meetings that may have been handled with a phone call or even an email update in pre-pandemic times are happening via Zoom now — it's just the default way to connect. So we're on more video meetings than ever.

Between the lines: While workers may turn off their cameras at their own peril, it's a two-way street: Executives and managers need to get with the times, particularly with the "great resignation" as a backdrop, work experts tell us.

  • Just like forcing people to come into the office may push them to quit, mandating "camera on" could do the same.

One way to get everyone on the same page is to be more intentional — and explicit — about which meetings should be camera off and which should be camera on, Slate's Torie Bosch writes.

  • If it's a get-to-know-you for a big team, tell people ahead of time to prepare to show their faces.
  • If it's a quick update on an ongoing project, everybody goes dark. Especially if it's before 9 a.m.
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