The Importance of Using Our Cameras In Online Meeting & Learning Spaces
Why Bother Using a Camera? Who cares?
We understand. Nobody could have been prepared for the way online learning would take over the world. Conversations over the internet can be frustrating. It is harder to jump into a conversation without interrupting, faulty internet connection can make communication difficult, and some folks feel like having a camera aimed into their homes is too revealing.
Our goal with this post is to describe the ways in which having a webcam can improve the online workplace experience. Working from home is becoming more and more popular and will likely become commonplace for many industries even after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us*.
The Use of Cameras Increase Multiple Facets of Emotional Intelligence
Let’s be honest: human beings evolved to be social creatures. Although many of us are introverts and like our private space, none of us is meant to be a hermit. We work and learn best alongside healthy social connections. Emotional Intelligence research is clear – there are multiple ways we connect and interact with each other, and these bonds and communities boost focus, trust, and group cohesion. Effective group and team life includes communicating, relating to, and being vulnerable with and around your colleagues, fellow group members, and instructors. More specifically, EQ-i elements like Emotional Expression, Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy, or Problem Solving suffer when group members are halfway present, but aren’t visible – when their voices and faces are not a part of everyone’s experience.
Showing Empathy for Others
When you are in an online meeting or class, and your camera is off, this is what you see. Being an instructor, group member, or group leader is so much more challenging when trying to engage or collaborate with a screen that looks like this. Having your camera turned on makes it easier for communication, connection, and cohesion, which in turn, gives you a better experience. We understand that sometimes life calls – a child needs to be tended to, the dog needs to be fed, or bathroom breaks must be taken. Sometimes turning the camera off for a small period of time is necessary, but having it off by default will help ensure that your team or training experience will be harder and worse.
Non-Verbal Communication is Equally as Important as Verbal
Being in a meeting with coworkers can be a drag sometimes. How many times have we said to ourselves, “This absolutely could have been in an email.” However, think of all the times where a meeting has spurred some great ideas, or given you some wind in your sails. Maybe you gave a presentation in front of your boss and couldn’t help but constantly read their face for some expression that said if they liked it or not. Even if you’re someone who prefers staying quiet during meetings and taking notes, your face and body language are an important part of the meeting; having a camera turned off impedes the flow of information.
Having Your Camera Turned On Can Increase Engagement
Think of all the times you’ve zoned out during a meeting, then came back to reality and wondered how much you’d missed. During online learning, the urge to do this is even greater than in person. In person, because there are social norms we don’t want to violate, we’d never take out our phone and start scrolling through texts. However, at home, or with nobody around us, it can be much harder to resist the urge to doze off, to open a new browser tab and start scrolling, or to not pay attention in general. Having a camera on helps mimic a normal social dynamic that we’d feel at the office, which can help us stay engaged, learning, and participating.
There are numerous benefits to having cameras turned on in online spaces. A lot of the time, the reasons for wanting them off make sense: It’s early in the morning and I don’t feel presentable yet; I don’t want people seeing into my personal space; I don’t want to have my camera on if others have theirs off; the list goes on. However, if everyone has their cameras on, and is participating, the process becomes much smoother for everyone, instructors, leaders, and colleagues alike.