"Good morning, team! If we could all turn our cameras on for this meeting, that'd be great." It's a line that's become a common refrain in the remote work era – but one that many employees dread.
Platforms such as Zoom were a blessing when Covid-19 lockdowns hit, allowing many people to work from home. But, two and a half years into the pandemic, that same technology has become something of a curse, too. These days, millions of workers spend hours each day on video calls, exhausting themselves trying to decode colleagues’ body language or distracted by their own image on screen.
Having a camera on can often be seen as a sign of engagement; proof an employee really is committed to their work. But experts also suggest turning off cameras could, along with mitigating the annoyance of always appearing on screen, improve worker wellbeing – and makes meetings more efficient, to boot.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, it made a lot of sense that people wanted to be on camera, because we were living under the premise that this was going to be a two-week pause of our lives – and so we were like, 'We want to see everybody, we want to connect'," says Allison Gabriel, professor of management and organisations at the University of Arizona, US, who's studied the effects of Zoom fatigue.