In addition, a camera-less approach has the potential to create more inclusive organizations, says Gabriel. Research shows that newcomers to organizations may experience more Zoom fatigue, because they find it especially important to show their faces to their new colleagues more often, she says. Women are also affectedbecause they are more likely to work from home due to childcare† In addition, the same study found that introverts experience Zoom fatigue more acutely than extroverts. Turning off the camera can help reduce stress for workers in these many groups who may be most affected.
What is the best practice for the future?
The good news is that things can change. While Gabriel believes that seeing people in front of the camera really helps employees who miss their colleagues, burnout from video calls and a greater urge for flexibility from employees could shift Zoom etiquette in a new direction.
Some companies have already made cameras optionalmainly if more research argues that a camera-optional approach is better for people’s mental health. Gabriel says we’re at an “inflection point for people to really create work settings and workplaces that work for them, not against them.”
People will find different balances. Shen says that while it’s helpful to see people during video calls, “it may not always be necessary.” She suggests a team could do three days with cameras in a week and two days off, or something similar, to reduce Zoom fatigue. “I think that’s something that companies can be a little more judicious about, or at least give people a break,” she says.
Bosses also need to trust employees and accept that having cameras off doesn’t mean people are no longer involved. “Often we consider the camera the only indicator of engagement, but what if we use other features more carefully, such as the polls and chat, where it doesn’t matter whether someone’s camera is on or not?” says Gabriel. She says Zoom has a lot of features — besides the camera — that show employees participating in meetings.
It’s also crucial, she believes, that whoever makes the call sets the right tone and tells participants that having cameras isn’t a requirement — whether that’s the leader of a one-time meeting, or the company setting up a far reaching policy or rules.
Companies and bosses still committed to ‘cameras on’ need to ask themselves why they think they need it. If it’s because they’re afraid employees will act crazy, Gabriel and Shen point out that the workforce has functioned well for decades via old-fashioned conference calls. Having new platforms like Zoom doesn’t necessarily mean everything about older practices is obsolete.
“Just because the technology can do something doesn’t mean it always makes sense to us,” Shen says.