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Does Video Conferencing Make Your Employees Uncomfortable?

April 19, 2017

Anyone who’s ever participated in a video conference knows how difficult it can be to maintain eye contact with the person on the other end of the call. It’s hard to know where to look—if you look at your computer screen, it appears as though you’re looking down. However, staring at the camera can become uncomfortable for most people because they want to be able to see the person they’re talking to, not just a little camera built into their laptop. That’s why most people choose to stare at their screen and, most likely, at the smaller box on the screen that shows what they look like.

It’s okay, we’ve all done it. It’s difficult not to look at yourself during a video conference—the need to make sure you look okay while speaking and listening is almost impossible to ignore. However, a recent study out of Marquette University found that video conferencing participants who could not see themselves on screen were actually happier with their performance and more productive than those who could watch themselves.

The study divided the participants into two groups—those who could see themselves on the video screen and those who could not. The second group was much happier with the outcome of the conference than the first group. Researchers from Marquette aren’t completely sure why the results turned out this way, but suspect that it has something to do with object self-awareness. Essentially, the researchers believe that the participants who could see themselves spent more time thinking and worrying about how they looked and sounded than actually paying attention to the conversation.

This makes complete sense—everyone has insecurities, and it’s hard not to concentrate on them when they’re literally staring you in the face. So what can companies do to alleviate this problem? Forty-six percent of organizations in the study use video conferencing on a regular basis, and the technology is becoming increasingly important to the remote workforce. Therefore, companies need to do something about this problem, or else they’re going to have a lot of unfocused, uncomfortable employees on their hands.

Most obviously, employers can start using video conferencing solutions that don’t allow users to see themselves, or that allow that feature to be turned off. Employers can also encourage workers to think of the video conference as a presentation—during presentations, you look at the crowd rather than your index cards. The same principle of thought can be applied here. They can also take the time to talk to their employees and educate them about the importance of looking at the other participant, rather than themselves. 

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