Although video conferencing is here to stay, camera etiquette during meetings is still a topic of great debate. According to a recent survey by Korn Ferry, 69% of respondents say their camera is on more now during meetings than at the start of the pandemic. Even more telling, 75% of respondents say that more can be accomplished in virtual meetings where cameras are on.

These statistics seem to indicate that increased camera usage in team meetings is conducive to increased employee engagement. However, an intriguing study reported in Harvard Business Review upturns this assumption, noting that consistent camera use during meetings “was positively correlated to daily feelings of fatigue.”

Undoubtedly, Zoom fatigue and burnout can quickly drain hybrid team productivity, posing a significant challenge to the idea that on-camera requirements should be adopted without question as a matter of digital professionalism in the remote workspace. By recognizing that camera etiquette is not so black and white an issue, we can more readily reevaluate and refine hybrid communications around this nuanced intersection of employee trust and engagement.

What Influences Camera Use? Pros and Cons

One of the greatest perceived shortcomings associated with keeping one’s camera off is that it is a career minimizing move (60%). In the eyes of management, using your camera during team meetings is largely perceived not just as a sign of respect but accountability. As such, there is a lot of weight put on the necessity of visual cues in forming strong relationships with peers in the virtual workspace.

These concerns for on-camera etiquette in hybrid teams all resonate as a matter deeply intertwined with company culture. No doubt, all organizations seek to create a virtual environment where all employees feel comfortable being on camera, sharing their thoughts and concerns, and collaborating with each other. Though, this is clearly not something that can be forced into existence, and trying to do could quickly backfire. After all, assuming that off-camera employees slack off by default doesn’t really resonate as a trust-filled work environment.

Along these lines, a preference for personal accountability rather than mandated camera use reigns supreme. As Korn Ferry reports in their findings, the majority of surveyed employees (65%) do not believe that companies should mandate employees to turn their cameras on during Zoom meetings. Since camera etiquette is not popularly enforced by management, it is usually swayed by a strong emulation phenomenon at play in video conferencing. Notably, 44% of surveyed respondents said their top reason for not using their camera was because other participants had theirs off or it just wasn’t necessary. This begs the question: when is it necessary for cameras to stay on during a meeting?

To address this query, people leaders must contend with the variety of circumstances the influence camera usage or lack thereof. Zoom anxiety and insecurity about appearance or living space may play a role on a case-by-case basis. The size of the meeting itself may also influence participant’s decisions. For example, having your camera on in a small-scale meeting v. an all-hands meeting can mean two different things to two different people.

As organizations look to boost interpersonal engagement while navigating these sprawling circumstances and determinents, open lines of communication for employee feedback are a must as well as a general reconsideration of what agenda items actually require a virtual meeting in the first place.

Contemporary Camera Etiquette: A Short Guide

Prioritizing Mindful Scheduling – Avoid scheduling excessively long or back-to-back meetings and implement breaks between sessions to allow team members to recharge and reduce the risk of burnout. Coincidingly, be mindful of peak work times through the day. One Stanford University study on multitasking behavior reports that, on average, people were most focused at work around 11 a.m and between 2-3 p.m.

Establishing Clear Guidelines – Foster open communication within the team to establish clear guidelines regarding camera usage for different types of meetings or virtual events. Encourage frank discussions on when it’s essential to have cameras on and when flexibility is not just permissible but encouraged. This collaborative, understanding approach can readily make use of employee engagement metrics by gaining more collective insight into what works best for the team and why.

Encouraging Non-Visual Participation – Acknowledge that effective communication extends beyond visual cues. Encourage active participation through audio contributions, chat messages, and collaborative document editing. This not only accommodates diverse work preferences but also reduces the reliance on constant video engagement. Further, it could be advantageous to rework itineraries so that certain team members can drop off accordingly and skip the parts of the meetings that are not relevant to their role or require their visual participation.

Getting Realistic About Multitasking – Multitasking has often been associated with impoliteness, but for many workers it’s an indispensable part of work rhythm adaptation. Recurring or long-running meetings tend to encourage more multitasking by attendees but not all multitasking is inherently negative. By allowing space for positive multitasking, leaders can more realistically approach virtual office culture and efficiently refine team videoconferencing.

Cleary’s Approach to Employee Well-Being

In the ongoing debate over camera etiquette for hybrid teams, finding a middle ground that respects both digital professionalism and individual well-being is paramount. Striking this balance between visual engagement and mitigating the risks of Zoom fatigue requires thoughtful consideration and round table discussion on employee satisfaction and productivity pain points.

As regards hybrid team dynamics, our approach advocates for more mindful meetings, where scheduled breaks and consideration of peak work times become integral components of strategic engagement that respect the natural ebb and flow of individual energy. Looking forward, the future of hybrid work spearheaded by Cleary embraces the virtual workspace as not just an extension of the office but a tailored arena for each team member’s success.