Answer These 5 1-Second Qs, And You'll Know If Your Meeting Should Be Cameras On or Off

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Fairygodboss Staff

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May 24, 2024 at 1:52PM UTC

18 months into a pandemic, Zoom fatigue is more real than ever. Whether you’re working from home full-time, working remotely a few days a week or hopping on video calls in the office, video meetings can be draining — especially when your camera has to be on.

According to a Harvard Business Review study, using a video camera daily at work, not the number of hours in virtual meetings, is correlated with feelings of fatigue. Further, employees who feel fatigued because of virtual meetings are more likely to feel less engaged at work.

Cameras are a great way to see your coworkers and connect with them visually; even seeing body language virtually can make a difference in how you interpret and collaborate with team members online. But after back-to-back meetings or during busy days, sometimes cameras-on meetings feel tedious and even exhausting. Whether it’s your company’s default to have cameras on or off, here are a few quick questions to help you decide before you put that meeting on the calendar — and help make your meetings more efficient and productive, and less draining.

How to know if your meeting should be cameras on or off.

1. Are you meeting someone new?

If yes, cameras should be on! The best way to connect with someone new is to do so as face-to-face as you can — which means cameras-on in the virtual world. If not, cameras may not be necessary.

2. Are you collaborating with a team?

Cameras-on brainstorm sessions can be a great way to bounce ideas off one another without interrupting each other — because you may be able to read body language if someone has an idea or is about to speak! However, if this is a collaborating session where everyone is simply reading off a document or doing their own work, cameras optional may allow people to turn their camera off for extra focus.

If this is not a collaborative session, ask yourself question 3.

3. How are you participating in the meeting?

If you’re an observer, it may be okay to go cameras-off and stay muted if you’re just watching a presentation. If you’re supposed to give feedback, turning your camera on while you’re speaking is a better bet. If this is a 1:1 and you’ll be talking about half of the time, you should most likely keep your camera on.

4. Is this a recurring meeting?

Recurring meetings are a great way to continually connect with coworkers over specific issues, tasks or projects — which means having your camera on can make you feel more connected, but you shouldn’t assume you need your camera on every time. That means cameras-optional may work best; before each daily, weekly or monthly meeting, check-in with your coworker(s) to see if they’d prefer a cameras on or off meeting.

5. Could this meeting be a phone call?

If you’re still unsure whether this meeting should be video-mandatory or optional, this question is most likely a dead giveaway. Could you have this meeting as a phone call, and would it still be as efficient and productive? If yes — and you don’t need to share your screen — make or recommend making the meeting a phone call. This allows more flexibility for both you and your team to take the call from wherever they need to. Sometimes, the best ideas come during walking phone calls!

How do I tell my coworkers if a meeting is video-optional or video-mandatory?

The best way to let your coworkers know if a meeting is cameras on or off is to give them a heads up ahead of the meeting.

If you’re setting the meeting, you can add in the meeting invite — whether that’s in the notes or description — that cameras should be on or off. 

If this is a recurring meeting and you’re changing whether it should be cameras on or off, a quick message to your team before the meeting will do the trick.

Do you prefer cameras on or off meetings? What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for dealing with video meeting fatigue? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

This article reflects the views of the author and not those of Fairygodboss.

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