Yes you can cut your face

We have now been in this great remote work experience for years. It started as a zoom, but now it’s more like heavy work. Our professional lives are filmed all day, every day, and it’s time to let people take a break.

Face-muting is ok

Communicate remotely is not new. For ages we corresponded by mail. Then we added telegraphs, which increased the speed of communication. Then came the telephones, which allowed us to communicate beyond the cables. Fax, email, instant messaging, communication options have continued to expand.

We didn’t see each other’s faces, but business was still booming.

Video calls are great for a lot of things, like screen sharing and picking up on non-verbal cues. But that doesn’t mean we always have to look each other in the face. Because, let’s be honest, it’s exhausting.

We all know it’s good to mute the sound. But I want to make it clear that it’s just as acceptable to mute your face, turn off your camera, especially in certain situations.

  • While eating. On days when I’m slammed with back-to-back meetings, I often eat during calls. To avoid turning the meeting into a mukbang session, I mute the audio and video.
  • When you’re multitasking. Not every part of every meeting I attend is relevant to me. If people are talking about something that doesn’t concern me, I use that time for busy work, like checking Slack. I don’t mute myself to hide my multitasking – that’s a good use of time – but if I had my video it would be noticeable and distracting for others to see me doing something else.
  • In large group meetings. If no one sees you anyway, don’t hesitate to give yourself a break, so you don’t have to worry if people notice the weird way you scratch your ear.

When you don’t have your game face. We’re not ready for the camera 100% of the time. While shifting the clock to accommodate time zones, I sat in meetings at 5 a.m. I don’t get up at 4:45 a.m. to get my game face, and believe me, you don’t want to see my face at that time.

And there’s another one: the silent face when you feel like it.

How to encourage people not to face the mute

Yes, it’s normal, and sometimes important, to keep your camera turned off during a video call. But it’s also nice to see people’s faces sometimes, and the visual aspect of synchronous communication has obvious benefits.

Instead of issuing a firm decree, you can encourage participants to show their face by implementing a few strategies.

  • Have an agenda and share it in advance. It lets those who multitask know when something will be relevant to them. Instead of turning off the camera by default all the time, they can turn on their camera when it comes to a relevant agenda item.
  • Keep things concise. It’s easier to show your game face if it’s a shorter meeting, and people might be more open to the camera for 15 minutes than 45. Don’t schedule an hour-long meeting just because that is the default calendar.
  • Ask engaging questions or use breakout rooms for small group discussions. People are more likely to show their face if they are actually participating.
  • Do not record the meeting unless absolutely necessary. Being in front of the camera all day is tiring enough. Knowing it’s going to be recorded and living forever in the bowels of Skynet – uh, the internet – adds another layer of pressure. If a recording is needed, add timestamps so people can easily jump to relevant sections, and turn on captions and/or transcripts so people can get context without looking at everyone’s recorded faces. As a bonus, it will make your meetings more accessible.

I agree that meetings are sometimes (I repeat, sometimes!) necessary, but you can reduce the burden of being on camera all the time. It may not be a full zoom anymore, but see if you can at least turn this walkthrough into a walk.

This article by Michelle S. was first published on the Zapier blog. Find the original message here.

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