Real-world group conversations are not like that at all. If you're tired or you have nothing to say, you can just be in a corner listening to other people speak, nobody will mind, and you don't feel observed. That's a lot more like when you have your camera off.
For me, I also think the slight audio / video lag is really difficult in a similar way. It makes conversational fluency really hard, such as when you can interject, or knowing when someone has finished. It means that conversations tend to become a series of monologues, and that's a really tedious way of having a conversation.
For instance, when everyone is in the same room, you’re manifesting you dedicated your time to the meeting. From there, even if participants look at their mail or do something that might not be related, or just look bored, there is some leeway given by the fact they are there in the first place.
In most remote settings, I find this leeway is way thinner, and it is less accepted to be distracted by something else, people will be apologizing in more specific ways to justify they weren’t listenning.
or, point out "hey you have something else on screen because white screenlight flashed on your face"
Leaving this company in a month, although they're paying me 2x the local average SE salary here in Sweden.
But if you invite everyone to every meeting, have no agenda, and have awkward silences in the meeting you called while trying to come up with stuff to talk about... then surely people will try to get some work done in parallel.
Even if you have 5 people for 30 min on the call, it's totally understandable that one or two of them find it mildly boring but here and there relevant. For instance they are expert in one of the field touched by your project and they sometimes need to react.
In your ideal state, the choice is for them to leave the meeting altogether and find something else they can focus more on, or to focus 100% on the meeting and spend half of their time religiously listening to stuff they don't really need to hear.
In my experience the result of the second choice is people being more and more reticent to come to meetings, not just because of some hypothetical time lost, but because it's mentally painful.
As an added bonus, instead of having one meeting with 5 people, you need to make 3 with only the parts each members fully care about, and eventually a few more down the line when what they each say in isolation doesn't make sense when assembled together.
A well-prepared meeting is fast-paced and keeps everyone genuinely involved.
so you keep staring at your own image, which means everyone is staring at their own image, which means no one is looking at your image, which means you don’t need to care what you look like,
Maybe once video calls are routinely 1080p/2160p it will matter more, but 320p (the default for most systems today) at a low bitrate isn’t really doing much. You might as well shut it off unless you’re leading the meeting at that moment.
Contrariwise, when you are speaking/presenting, use an external camera (the one in your laptop/ipad/phone is optimized for thickness and thus the lens sucks) and a good soft key light.
I recently did a fair bit of research into this exact setup and landed on a Logitech StreamCam and a Elgato Key Light.
Well worth the money if you’re interested in achieving a high consumer grade level of quality, just be sure to purchase an adapter for the StreamCam as it is (infuriatingly) wired with a USB C connector.
There is no option for 1080, much less 2160.
I'm not sure if she was mistaken, or if there's some kind of eye tracking/image processing stuff going on to do this. FYI it was Microsoft Teams.
Easiest way to confirm this is not true, though (rather than just describe the challenge involved) - have a Zoom/Teams/whatever call 1-on-1. As you're talking to the person, and they're talking back to you, note where their eyes are. 95% of the time they're going to be below where your eyes would "meet", i.e., the camera is at the top of their monitor/laptop, and they're looking at you on screen. In fact, I've had some people -never- 'meet' my gaze, because they never become self-aware enough to "oh, I should look at my camera when I am talking".
I'm not sure that looking into the camera is that important in a one-to-one setting. I'm specifically not talking about a "broadcast", like when you address an assembly and the communication is expected to go both ways.
To me, the reason why we look at a person when talking together is to see their reactions, and for them to see ours. Even in real life, and in particular when we speak, we don't look at the other person's eyes 100% of the time.
So in the case of video chat, where the "eyes" (the camera) is completely separate from the face, looking into the eyes cuts you off from their reaction, as you'll only see it in your peripheral vision. However, even if you see their eyes never meet yours, you're able to infer whether they're looking at your video or reading something else. And the most important part, their reactions, is still there.
To me, the whole point of video chat, as opposed to a phone call, is to have this additional channel of communication. If you're not looking at the person with whom you're talking, you might as well not use video at all.
If I was planning to do any interviews I would definitely build and use this.
It also makes me wonder, when people are staring into the camera if they are looking at a photo instead of the camera lens.
I'm not a really outgoing person but when I talk in real life I'm one of those people who tend to look into someone's eyes a lot when talking and listening, probably 97% eye contact from my end if I had to guess. It feels very weird not to do this but looking into the webcam is much worse for me because you can't see the other person at the same time.
I haven't figured out why I prefer eye contact, but I wonder if it has to do with being able to see what the other person is doing and how they're reacting to the conversation. You can pick up a lot of information when looking at someone's face.
Making the window small enough to not generate much eye movement when scrolling around is a refinement.
There’s also a video where someone shows how your eyes get distorted to cause the effect, but I can’t find it right now.
And poor her - big Teams meeting are actually awful and large meeting with it are not good.
A lot of my team members were in Australia which appears to have dismal internet, a terrible connection to New Zealand, or both.
I work off a desktop with two 28" monitors and my camera sits above them in the center, and the meeting has to be on the left monitor or the right monitor, not straddling the middle, so you will never get that feeling of me looking directly at you.
I am, however, thinking of making something that deepfakes the perspective change correctly.
I have two different setups, one with a laptop that has an external monitor; one that is my tower with two monitors. On both, the camera is basically over the monitor I use for video conferencing. I don't care if somebody notices me staring at the other monitor - it's no worse than staring at the desk during a face-to-face meeting while somebody else is talking.
Or you could, you know, move the camera. I keep mine centered on top of my main monitor.
More specifically, when I'm talking in a meeting or giving a presentation, I find it very helpful to see other people, see their reactions, see whether they laugh at jokes or look confused when I'm bad at explaining things. My nightmare during remote work is giving a presentation to a silent wall of "camera off" icons.
I've also been in large meetings where everyone has the camera off - it doesn't bother me, but given a choice between not seeing people and seeing people, I would choose seeing people.
I did a lot of in-person presentations before, and one thing I had to learn is that remote facilitation/presentation is a different skill. You figure out other ways to discern who's keeping up, e.g.
I've seen the same flow happening IRL, where people new to the team expected a somewhat responsive crowd when they present, just to be met with a wall of laptop screens and inscrutable faces when the time comes.
To be clear the people in the room were paying attention, and effectively cross checking info and exploring the points they wanted to focus on. They just didn't give any feedback to the presenter until the end of the presentation, when it's time to discuss the details.
It can be seen as socially rude, but to us it was really efficient: instead of telling the presenter we'll give feedback another time, at the end of the presentation we already had a rough opinion with a modicum of confidence in the numbers or facts to discuss. Doing all of that checking before the meeting is another way to do it, but honestly I'm not sure it's much better.
When it comes to low stakes, wide range presentations, an approximation I've seen was a side "reaction" channel on Slack or Discord to share random thoughts during the presentation. It gets very memey and you need an audience that is used to random chats, but there is an actual feeling of back and forth between the presenter and the audience. You'll see emojis and reaction gifs flying around when people get engaged, questions that you can scoop along the way or keep for the Q&A section afterward, etc.
Both can be true right? This study just studied the effect of persons own camera while participating. However, it doesn't really say much about how turning off camera affects other participants that are now left without the visual feedback.
Indeed, supposing that both this research and my anecdote are valid, it'd be a rather unfortunate asymmetry in remote work, a fatigue issue that has no good solution which doesn't require one of the participants to compromise.
(I'm not very dependent on human social anything, so I don't really know how to speak to the rest of it, sorry.)
> popular press discussion of virtual meeting fatigue (i.e.,“Zoom fatigue”), described as a feeling of being drained and lacking energy following a day of virtual meetings.
I am sure I am not the only person to have felt the effects of so-called 'meeting fatigue', being drained and lacking in energy following a day of sitting in meetings in person.
This piece reminds me of several 'The impact of working from home' pieces that seem to assume two states exist, working from home or doing nothing.
Yes working from home has had an impact, but so did waking up at 5am and standing on a packed commuter train for 45 minutes, before wedging into an uncomfortable fluorescent cubicle for 8 hours, making sure you were 'seen', before turning around and packing into the train with the same people from the morning all over again.
If you are in 'zoom meetings' back to back all day then I assume pre covid / wfh you either were in 'in-person meetings' back to back all day or have inserted a large number of additional meetings that did not exist before.
And there actually is meeting fatigue caused by often badly ventilated meeting rooms.
“[W]e propose and test a model where study condition (camera on versus off) was linked to daily feelings of fatigue; daily fatigue, in turn, was presumed to relate negatively to voice and engagement during virtual meetings. We further predict that gender and organizational tenure will moderate this relationship such that using a camera during virtual meetings will be more fatiguing for women and newer members of the organization. Results of 1,408 daily observations from 103 employees supported our proposed model....”
I teach at a university and, since early last year, have been working exclusively from home. An interesting change has occurred in our online faculty meetings over that period. At first, when we were still getting used to videoconferencing, most meetings were conducted with most people’s cameras on. Over time, however, more and more of the meetings have been conducted with almost everyone keeping their cameras off; in many meetings, people turn their cameras on only when they are speaking and often not even then.
When we started teaching online last April, we were told not to require students to turn on their cameras during class (out of respect for their privacy), and it seems that most classes are indeed being conducted with the students’ cameras off. I personally find that frustrating; I am not as easily able to remember students as individuals, even in small classes, when I never see their faces. (Otherwise, I don't mind online teaching at all.)
For faculty meetings, though, I haven't heard any complaints about cameras being off, and the meetings seem to be as effective online with limited video as they used to be when conducted in person.
In one-on-one conversations, both cameras are usually on. I, at least, find that works as well as in-person conversations, and I much prefer one-on-one videoconferencing to telephone conversations.
I don't know if being able to "get away with" not turning on your video is really in your favor. I am probably rare in this, but probably every month I end up seeing that someone is visibly stressed/exhausted on a Zoom, ask them about it and we usually end up talking about it and solving it.
Like "holly shit noisy_boy, you look really tired - everything OK?" could give you a chance to open up about your concerns about your work or family stress that would otherwise never come up in a factual update, and as a manager, there's a TON I can help with once I am aware.
To be fair I am probably in a minority of people who look for this kind of thing but just pointing out "hiding" isn't always good.
It depends on the person, team, and situation. Obviously there are more sensitive contexts where discretion is needed.
When I don't think that's necessary, I err on the side of just asking. I want my team to do this to each other too.
I'm still working on training people to give two hours notice in general for meetings, and some brief sketch of an agenda, so that it feels less like an ambush.
1. Did fatigued and non-fatigued users participate in the same style of camera display? Were they held in presentation, face to face, or "Brady Bunch" mode? Did users have self-view on, shrunk, or off?
2. Of the 100ish participants selected, where is the control group who received no guidance on when to turn cameras on or off? Do they have a similar variation in fatigue between genders and weeks?
3. It seems odd that the gender variance in fatigue was selected for review and the managerial / employee division was not. Given that 45% of the sample was supervisory this would have been a useful element to understand. One would normally expect that supervisors will be less fatigued by video camera use as it may be their policy, or they may have more experience.
A related take on the topic (albeit without a field experiment) can be found at https://tmb.apaopen.org/pub/nonverbal-overload/release/2
The first one folded in 2007, but I've been with the second one since then (so, 14 years this month). Both firms had geographically diverse teams, and neither have any office space anywhere.
Until about 10 years ago, I did a lot of client-facing travel. Then, all of a sudden (seemingly), that stopped. In retrospect I think it was because in-person visits for our work (implementation of our project management system with large-scale customers) really does not need it. What you need is time with us so we can help you configure, and train you, and troubleshoot with you, etc -- and that works GREAT over GoToMeeting (or WebEx or whatever you prefer).
If you want us on site, you're paying for WAY more hours, plus you're paying for flights, hotels, meals, rental cars, etc. AND if we have to go to you, we can't do other work for other customers while we're in your office, which makes US less efficient, so the telepresence approach is a big win on both sides.
*We have never ever ever turns on cameras* as part of this work. This was true before COVID, because they were not a value-add at all. This is especially true during COVID when so many are working with home-grade internet packages with really crappy upload speeds. The video sabotages the audio and screensharing, and brings nothing useful in return, at least for us.
I'm waiting for the rest of the economy to realize this. Several of our customer parties are in organizations that have decided YOU MUST TURN ON YOUR CAMERA or whatever, and we occasionally get questions about our refusal. As vendors, though, we're in a position to just say no.
The answer, in a kind of trivalent nutshell, is: (1) emotional stress, (2) physical vanity, (3) a certain queer kind of self- obliterating logic in the microeconomics of consumer high-tech.
(Unrelated, I think LINE completely took over the whole "communication market" and now people are addicted to async conversations)
There was a time when you were paid to "be present" physically. ie, fill the seat in a room where discussions happened, however meaningful (or not) your contribution to the matter at hand. Time and technology changed and productivity of an individual, especially in CS disciplines far out grew expectations of organizational structure.
This is opinion only, but in this day and age, having meetings where there are a LOT of people talking and you're not an active participant seems to me an indication of skewed expectations of presence. You don't need to have your camera on all the time if your contribution to the meeting is simply saying nothing or even saying a few lines in the middle of an hour long discussion.
Maybe we need to stop thinking that "Virtual meetings" are simply digital manifestations of what people used to do in real life. The world has changed significantly and we are still doing what people did decades ago, only in newer ways and calling it progress. People "online" have vastly different presence than ones stuck in a physical room and can multi task . . walk in a park, do the dishes, play a video game on the couch and still participate constructively if the requirement is simple passive participation in a discussion (Which most meetings today seem to be)
I'd say we need a deeper probe into these thieves of productive time where people simply fill calendars with blocks of time or send of hundreds of emails a month with very little progress to show for it and dig into how we optimize that for all of humanities benefit.
I can do this because I'm almost always leading or facilitating, and quite often I meet with the same set of people several times a week for several weeks, so I get some sense of their personal lives. "How was your daughter's birthday?" or whatever goes a long way to normalizing the interaction, creating a sort of soft-space for chat, and keeping it from being wall-to-wall business.
We have an executive who insists on doing this, too, and it's universally hated. You can't force small talk, and when he does, it just makes things awkward for everyone.
It's even worse when he tries to force the issue by singling someone out with a small-talky question like your example "How was your daugher's birthday". The person being singled out is then in the hotseat and the discomfort in their voice while they scramble to come up with an answer is palpable. It's like being put on public display.
Client workshops are usually relatively small -- say, 4 to 8 people. Training classes are bigger, but usually no more than a dozen or so because it gets unwieldy.
I make sure I open the meeting a little early, and as people trickle in I make small talk. As more people join, this grows organically. I'm typically going to be working with a given set of people for weeks or months, so it's not at all weird to have these conversations, and we absolutely would be having them if we were in person.
>It's even worse when he tries to force the issue
I am not a moron, nor am I interested in making anyone uncomfortable, so the idea that I would use this approach to try and force someone to answer a given question when they're not interested in interacting is ludicrous. This isn't how normal humans operate.
It's worth noting that the CEO is operating from a position that I absolutely do not have: everyone in that room works for him. I'm always an outside consultant. Nobody in the rooms I lead reports to me, so there's nothing loaded about making small talk.
I have definitely seen management, and in particular upper management, fail to realize how alienating a faux just-folks presentation can be.
Maybe the problem isn't the video, but an abundance of meetings. Fewer meetings = less fatigue!
When I used to be in a physical meeting, I'd get up and leave the room if there was a lull in conversation, it signaled I had left.
On a zoom call, you could go to the toilet with your headphones or whatever, but it's harder to get a gap in conversation (there's always a speaker), and I don't like to trust mute with a poop.
Not as good as not having Zoom meetings at all, but still, it's better.
But I prefer it when people have their camera on, that way I can tell whether or not they're engaged or not. And because of this 'being watched' effect meetings tend to be shorter.
Not only are our virtual meetings no shorter than the old in-person ones, but we get to have a lot more of them, too!
Once you turn the camera on you need to dress as if you're in the office, even though you're at home. You need to design your camera background to look professional i.e. emulate the office, even though it's your home. Your partner, kids or guests don't get to walk through the room anymore without creating anxiety in you - even thought it's your home.
Voice only? It's a different world. You can dress the way you'd dress at home. You can have family and friends walking by without an issue. You don't have to turn your home into some kind of stage that pretends to be an office.
But voice has even greater benefits: It's lower bandwidth so you can travel more freely. You can use push to talk to mask background noise when you're on a group call. Voice also has a leveling effect among colleagues so it stops being about who is the best looking, has the nicest haircut, or the fanciest suit. It's about a purely intellectual connection with your colleagues. In that sense, voice only is a leveler and an enabler. It breaks down barriers.
At Defiant (our 38 person cybersecurity company) we've been doing voice only since we started hiring. I designed our collaboration this way because I was a fone phreak in the early 1990s (hanging out on #phreak on effnet) and I collaborated with my best friends voice only and via text on IRC, in some cases for years. So I knew going into building a software company that I could make voice-only collaboration work along with text. We started hiring and going voice only in 2015, when even the idea of remote was absurd to many companies.
Now, in 2021, we have the Fortune 5000 stumbling into remote work and doing their damndest to emulate the office environment. And the camera is a core part of that attempt to emulate. Not only does it have strong negatives, like the fatigue the study mentions, but it also doesn't take advantage of the benefits of voice-only and having a truly intellectual, relaxed, and collaborative environment between remote colleagues.
We use Teamspeak for our big team calls with PTT enabled which is a game changer for noisy environments. And we use mostly slack calls for one on one or small groups.
Welcome to our world, "normies" :-).
I find VR meetings much better, but it highly depends on the quality of the VR goggles and the software.
And of course you need some time to get used to VR.