Skype meetings: Should you turn your camera on?

Two HR professionals outline tips to engage employees in the post-COVID world

Skype meetings: Should you turn your camera on?

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many HR directors turning Skype, Zoom, and other various platforms to communicate and engage with their employees.

As such, what has arisen are mixed feelings about whether to turn webcams on or off during conference calls.

The affirmative argument that cameras on allows employers to have a deeper understanding of how people are feeling and a window into each other’s world. On the other hand, some claim it’s an unnecessary invasion of privacy that can make people feel awkward and intimated.

For work purposes, having the camera on helps people engage with one another, communicate effectively and benefit more from each other’s company, according to Karen Gately, founder of Corporate Dojo.

READ MORE: COVID-19: How to support your people through a personal crisis

Gately told HRD that she understands that not everyone likes being in front of a camera, but the reality is that it’s part of our current world.

“I said to somebody who is an extreme introvert ‘mate, I have actually seen your face in person. Turn your camera on’.

“He was super funny because the next time he spoke to me he did turn on the camera on but he had the lights off. He is over it now, so he can turn on the camera and look at me.

“Just be a bit firmer around how you expect people to turn up.”

In this day and age, many platforms allow people to be in one group at a certain time but then they can go to separate rooms where everybody is broken up into smaller groups. And then you can press a button and bring everybody back together again.

Gately said it’s that kind of technology that can be used to keep workplace conversations dynamic and staff engaged. That’s because people have to be able to contribute, think and speak, rather than “sit and listen and hope it ends soon”.

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Another person who is a fan of having the camera on for better engagement is Alex Hattingh, chief people officer at Employment Hero.

In fact, the company has a ‘video on’ policy, meaning that in their morning ‘stand-ups’, everyone can see each other’s faces.

“For any leader, this makes it easier to read expressions and emotive cues which are harder to pick up over audio alone. If someone seems a bit down, I’ll check in with them after our call,” Hattingh told HRD.

“As we slowly return to a more blended office and remote-work environment, we have a rule that if one person has to dial into the meeting, everyone must dial in, even if 90% of people are in the office. We realised while working from home that we must treat employees who are remote in the same way as our employees in the office, and that starts with more inclusive and nuanced policies.”

The company also have dedicated Slack channels for social chit-chat, where employees can catch-up without interrupting workflows.

“We’ve also made a conscious effort to inject a bit of fun into our Friday ‘All-Hands’ meetings, with a dress-up theme to offer some non-work-related relief. This does wonders for workplace morale,” said Hattingh.

Beyond communication platforms, another engagement technique the company is using are ‘employee wellness surveys.’

These are non-anonymous, yet confidential surveys that they use to gain an understanding of how employees are feeling, and to see where they can offer support.

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