Keeping the camera off during a Zoom call may feel polite, but your boss is more likely to see it as a sign you’re disengaged.
About 92% of executives agree that employees who are frequently muted or have their camera turned off during video calls probably don’t have a long-term future with their company, according to a new report released Tuesday by Vyopta, a company focused on analytics products used to improve video and web collaboration. For the report, Wakefield Research surveyed 200 U.S. executives at companies of 500 or more employees last month.
That’s because most executives typically see this behavior as a perceived lack of engagement and a sign of poor performance to come—whether that’s warranted or not. About 43% of executives suspect employees who are on mute or have their camera turned off during video team meetings are scrolling through websites or social media, while 40% believe they’re texting or chatting.
The challenge of presenting an engaged and ready-to-work image to top management is especially difficult for workers who are off-site. Nearly all executives surveyed (96%) believed that remote workers are at a disadvantage compared to their on-site counterparts. These workers are typically less connected and have fewer opportunities, according to the executives surveyed.
‘It’s really important to show your face’
When it comes to video meetings, different types of conversations may merit different setups, but overall, the best practice is to join with your camera on, says Alexa Helms, a publicist and public speaking coach who provides Zoom etiquette training to clients. She tells Fortune that she’s been on video meetings with thousands of participants and it’s still nice to see people’s faces—especially when people are asking questions or participating in some way.
“It’s really important to show your face, at least at the beginning. It shows respect and professionalism that you’re there, you’re awake, you’re alive, and you’re engaged,” Helms says.
If it’s a big meeting and you feel like your video participation will be distracting, then you can turn your camera off once the presentation or conversation starts, Helms says. But even though there’s definitely a lot of “Zoom fatigue” these days, employees shouldn’t assume that simply being off camera is the right solution.
It’s also worth communicating with your colleagues before you turn off your camera, particularly if it’s a smaller meeting and your absence will be noticed. “It’s nice to at least show your face for the first few minutes and then say, ‘Hey, guys, you know, I’m here. I’m gonna hop off you now, so as not to be a distraction.’ But at least they saw you and they know that you’re there and that you’re alive and awake,” Helms says. “As long as you communicate what’s going on, people usually respect that.”
A blurry background can help
For those workers who are worried that their workspace may not be professional enough, Helms suggests using a virtual or blurred background. “Not everyone has a beautiful home office. A lot of us are working in closets and crazy places,” she says. That’s fine, but then make adjustments so you can have your camera on without being embarrassed about the background.
Keeping your camera on can really foster trust—something that’s much needed right now. That’s because despite productivity continuing to grow and most companies’ profits continuing to rise, only about 61% of executives surveyed fully trust their workers to be able to work remotely. That’s down from 66% in 2021.
“Working from home is such a privilege and luxury,” Helms says. For those who have been lucky enough to be able to work from home, especially during the pandemic, if all your manager wants is to show your face for a few minutes so they know you’re there, it’s not that much to ask, she says.
In some respects, it’s the same expectation as if you were going into the office, Helms says. Managers typically expect a certain level of professionalism, presentation, and engagement, so asking employees to do that on their computer isn’t a huge ask.
“Zoom or some form of it will be with us for the long haul,” Helms says, so employees do need to be thinking through how their actions are being perceived.
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