It’s incredible to think that it has been a year since we’ve been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our lives. That has a massive effect in almost all aspects of our personal and professional routines, lockdowns, isolation, managing our mental health, and many more. It has changed our social behaviours dramatically; we are living in a new world so we must create a new way of life.
As a result of the pandemic and lockdowns, virtual meetings have become part of our daily personal and professional normal, to connect and communicate with one another. Currently many of us spend a big portion of our daily life behind our computer and phone on video calls.
The Office for National Statistics’ data shows more than one third of UK employees are continuing to solely work from home, and similar levels in other countries. Working from home is going to continue for most of us until the Covid-19 vaccines are far more widely rolled out and obtainable for more people. Even then some level of home working may continue after the pandemic has finally passed and already some companies have given their staff a choice to work from home “indefinitely”.
Those of us who were not used to remote working had to adjust. There’s no doubt video conferencing has helped substitute personal connections in place of being in the office or meetings. Though while we may be conformable on Facetime with friends and family, when it comes to our professional life some of us prefer to stay behind the scenes and not turning on that video screen and essentially making the meeting a giant phone call. From time to time, we’ve seen some people turn up so casually in their hoodies, old t-shirts or look scruffy, we’ve come to expect the unexpected and I love to see other people’s homes on our calls!
No matter how you feel about webcams, there are a variety of reasons that make activating them beneficial during the remote workday. Let me preface this by saying we may be not someone who loves to be on webcam. Most days, especially since the coronavirus pandemic hit, we have changed our habits. Little things like wearing little to no makeup, not shaving, or living in slippers and loungewear. If we’ve got a virtual presentation or business meeting, we need to up the game.
Remember back in the pre-corona days when we all used to either go to the office or attend face to face meetings? Where we knew we were going to meet others we used to pay attention to our appearance and made an effort to look presentable.
What has happened since the pandemic?! Do we feel uncomfortable through webcams or are now so used to the casual days or what?! As it may be tempting to stay in your pyjamas or hide behind the scenes, seeing our teammates makes the workday feel more social and connected overall that has a huge impact on our wellbeing and mental health state. Surely, that precious face time is crucial to pick up on facial cues that might deliver some clue about how the other person feels, which leads to clearer communication and better engagement with colleagues.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of keeping our webcam on while we are at the virtual meeting and how to keep our sanity.
When the webcam is off, it’s easy to lose focus and instead of paying attention to the meeting you can be encouraged texting a friend or scrolling through your social media feed. When the webcam is on, everyone can see what we’re up to and creates accountability, confidence and trust among the team, which increases productivity and performance.
On the other hand, communication is the heart of our life and video call creates better connections and engagement with others as seeing your team on camera encourages real conversations and interaction and minimises miss-understandings. Communication is easier when you can read what others mean beyond their words. Facial expressions, hand gestures, and other types of body language speak volumes and help us decipher what others really mean. You lose significant context from those non-verbal signs by leaving your webcam off. Seeing what the other person is saying and how they say it clarifies meaning and reduces misunderstandings.
Most importantly, lockdown created a sense of isolation and loneliness among us when we can’t see colleagues, friends, and family in person for long lengths of time. Even the most introverted person has found it challenging at some point during the last year to work solely from home with minimal travel and social activities as a break from the routine. Then visual connections with others will minimise any sense of isolation we may feel and will help us to stay sane and maintain our mental health status.
Since everyone is working from home and we are not attending fun events, turning on your webcam also creates opportunities for some fun sessions, where you can share more of your personal life including your pets, kids, or home with others. A little social interaction like this helps team members get to know each other and develop more appreciation for each other.
And at least knowing others can see us will motivate us to get dressed, to look good, and this will help us feel good as we don’t do it often nowadays. Turning on your webcam means you have a compelling reason to try new outfits and look presentable. That can put you in the proper frame of mind for productive work. Consequently, you’ll find it easier to separate your work time from your personal time while you use your home for both aspects of your life.
We now know the benefits of having our webcam on during those video calls and what we can do and how you turn up in your video call next. Remember, COVID-19 is forced on us and we don’t have much control over it. We can however control our own decisions and our own life by shifting our mindset, connecting with others as much as we can, and help each other through this and help bring people out of it happier, healthier and in a good mindset to meet the new world head-on.
Next time you have a video call set aside 15-30 minutes before the call to prepare yourself both mentally and physically. Try some breathing exercises, meditation or even some stretches to clear your mind, then make some effort to look presentable, not just for others but for yourself! Believe me you will find the difference and feel good for it. After all, virtual calls are the new workplace, and the only difference is the location has been changed!
Susan Izadkhasti is a Personal and Business Coach – Coaching with Susan