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Webcams aren't just a nice-to-have tool that you can use from time to time. When used consistently, they can enable you to build rapport with coworkers, read a client's visual cues during a big presentation and even help you find your motivation.
Of course, there are plenty of legitimate reasons you might not use your webcam very often. Many people experience added anxiety from being on camera, and some internet connections can’t handle streaming video. If that describes you, it’s totally fine to not use your webcam!
However, if your internet can handle live video and you don’t have any anxiety being on camera, you might want to start turning your webcam on regularly again. Here are a few reasons you should consider using your webcam for every Zoom call.
In a digital age, many of us are no longer tethered to a desk in a physical office. More and more of us work from home either part time or as part of fully remote teams.
With a decent computer and a reliable internet connection, employers no longer have to worry about finding talent within an hour’s drive of their office. Employees can relocate to their dream city without changing their jobs. Companies can hire agencies from around the world without having to worry about footing the bill to travel to in-person meetings and presentations.
But what happens when we never get to see the folks on the other end of the conference call? How can you build strong professional relationships with people you never get to see in person? After all, holiday parties, water cooler chats and post-conference dinners were how we formed human relationships with our co-workers, employees and clients. If we’re all faceless voices on calls and in emails, it’s almost impossible to feel a real connection to each other and build trust and respect among teams.
Being able to see co-workers (and their children) can build feelings of trust and respect among coworkers.
Turning on your webcam isn’t the same as enjoying a cup of coffee and a pastry with someone, but being able to put a face to the conversation adds a human element back into meetings that can otherwise feel cold and awkward.
Let’s face it, sometimes it’s just plain nice to see friendly and familiar faces. When working remotely, you may not see other people all day long. Even if you have roommates or a family at home with you during the day, humans are social creatures who need to socialize with others. Especially if you’ve been feeling isolated, turning on the webcam and encouraging others to do the same can help you feel that personal connection you might be missing.
Many people heavily rely on visual cues during conversations and presentations. Visual cues can be obvious—like nodding as you follow along with a presentation—or more subtle, like looking up or to the side when you’re in the middle of a thought.
If you forego using a webcam during Zoom meetings, you have no idea how the person on the other end of the call is actually reacting. You can’t see if they’re quiet because they love your ideas and want to hear you finish, or if they’re completely checked out because they think you’re way off-base.
Visual cues are also essential to using humor. Humor is often risky on calls and during presentations, but it’s especially risky if you’re not using a webcam. Unless you can see if the other person is smiling or winking, it’s often difficult to tell if someone was joking or not. It’s not that much different than sending a joke via text or email—humor often doesn’t translate well unless you can see and hear the person delivering the joke.
By using your webcam during Zoom calls, people will be able to read your visual cues.
Keeping your webcam on also reduces the chance of awkward interruptions. While a lot of people use filler words such as “um” when they’re searching for the right words, many people cut those filler words from their vocabulary because they’re perceived as unprofessional.
The problem is, those “ums” are often replaced with complete silence. If you can see the people with whom you’re speaking, you’re more likely to be able to tell from their expression whether or not they’re done speaking. That will lessen the likelihood that you speak over someone by accident. And let’s face it, talking over someone is usually seen as rude and awkward even if it’s an accident.
A lot of people have trouble getting into the work mindset when they’re sitting at their desk at home in sweatpants and an old band t-shirt with moth holes.
If you’re new to working from home, you may have trouble separating your work brain from your home brain. That’s because the little rituals you’d normally do when heading to an office—such as getting dressed and commuting—aren’t a part of your routine anymore. While you probably don’t want to hop in your car and drive around the block for a half an hour to recreate your daily commute, getting dressed is a transitional activity that you can still do from home.
Using your webcam during a meeting might encourage you to put on a nice shirt, which could boost your productivity
So, what does getting dressed have to do with webcams? If you opt to turn on your webcam for your daily Zoom calls, you’ll feel more compelled to change into nicer clothes during the workday. We’re not saying you should feel like you need to wear a suit, but you might consider putting on a nice sweater vs. that ragged college hoodie for video calls.
Turning on your webcam can also make you more motivated to be attentive during calls. If you’re just connecting to audio, you might be tempted to scroll through your Twitter feed on your phone or simply zone out. However, if you use your webcam during calls, the simple fact that you know people can see you might put you on better behavior.
Ultimately, whether or not you turn your webcam on for every Zoom meeting is completely up to you. But if you feel like you’re not building a close bond with your coworkers or clients, are having trouble reading visual cues on calls or aren’t feeling as motivated as you’d like, try turning on your webcam to see if it makes a difference!
Looking for other ways to improve your work from home setup? Check out our list of essential tech hardware for your home office.