Should You Keep Your Camera On? Working In The Virtual World.

I remember when one of my team gave me the zoom tip of “Hide self-view” in Zoom. I think I cheered. I want to see all of you; I don’t want to see myself. I’m not the only one; looking at yourself can stress you out. Zoom fatigue is a thing. And yet, every week, I ask the attendees of Live! With Joanna to turn on their cameras. Why? Mostly because the show has a ton of interactive moments. I’m asking questions, looking for volunteers, and engaging with the audience. Asking for people to raise their hands means I can talk to them like they were in the room. We still find people who refuse to turn their cameras on. Even if it means they won’t get chosen.

As we navigate this new normal, I think there is a whole slew of new questions and constructs we’re going to have to consider as we figure out how to be virtual team members. One of the questions I hear across my network is: Should one have one’s camera on or off?

I don’t think that’s the right question. 

I think the question is, is there a cost or benefit to having your camera on? Because here’s the thing. In this working world, you get to choose. Choose who you work for, what opportunities to say yes to, and when to say no. You’re the creator of your career path. If this is true, you should consider the cost/benefit of keeping your camera on/off the same way you choose everything else.

So here are a couple of questions to help you consider what’s right for you. 

  • If you keep the camera off, will you have to pay the “invisibility” tax?  I want you to roll back to when you used to work in the office. While we’d like to believe that promotions are 100% merit-based, you’re fooling yourself if you think familiarity isn’t a factor. We connect through the eyes, and we build trust, all the human elements. The team at Argent was initially inspired to create clothing that matched their ambition. One of the problems they wanted to solve? Not being around during casual conversations, not being seen. So they created a clothing line with pockets. No need to separate from the conversation to grab your purse. If your camera’s not on, they can’t see you. Yes, your face matters that much.
  • If you keep the camera on, will it drain your energy faster? I am an extrovert, a big one. But even I have learned to block out my Friday afternoons. Two live shows which require me to be “camera on” at a whole other level take a wallop on my energy levels. Is keeping your camera off the new version of self-care?
  • If you keep the camera off, can you be more productive? Yes, I know multitasking is technically impossible, but let’s be honest with ourselves. When you mute and turn your camera off, you can listen to the conversation while also answering the endless emails, or creating that report that absolutely must be done by the end of the day. You’re a productivity maniac. This particular issue could be a pro and a con. Both because they’re making you more efficient. And is increased efficiency setting the expectation for more productivity a good thing or setting you up for burn out? Reports are showing an increase of 47% productivity when working from home. And yet general mental well-being numbers are heading south at great speed. I can’t imagine they’re not related.

These are a couple of ideas I’ve been mulling in this new working world. I’m guessing you have some pros and cons for the whole camera on/off debate. I’d love to collect them and share them all. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Here’s the bottom line. There are no right or wrong answers. Each call means you get to make a new decision. 

And the person you should prioritize is you.

Ps. A follower recently asked my thoughts on what to consider when thinking of hiring an executive coach. Of course, I have 100+ questions that you should consider when hiring a coach, but here are three are big meaty ones.