It’s been said that employees are more engaged with a meeting when they are on video rather than as voice only. There’s a ring of truth to that assertion. Being on camera means that if you aren’t paying attention, everyone can see and you’ll be judged (e.g., being called out – “John, are you listening?”). And when you start doing email or scrolling Twitter while the meeting is happening, your lack of attention should show through pretty quickly. So yes, in one sense, an employee visible to the other people in a meeting will exhibit certain behaviours that make it look as though they are engaged.
But there’s a dangerous under current in such a statement too. Being “on camera” and being “under surveillance” can feel like the same thing. What if you’re the type of meeting attendee who … is at maximum engagement when you’re participating with your eyes closed?
Or walking around pacing the room while listening deeply or ardently advocating a perspective?
Or sitting on the floor with your back against the wall?
What if being on camera for you and seeing the facial expressions of others knocks out your ability to concentrate – because the mental cycles you would prefer to devote to listening deeply are now re-directed into ensuring you pass the test of looking engaged enough? Or forcing your own face to do the right physical acrobatics at the right time.
What if you don’t fit the easy definition of “being engaged” by staring ahead into that small camera on the top of your screen?
What if you’d rather not be seen – heard yes, when the time was right – but seen, no?
Engagement is a deep and multi-faceted construct, and binary behaviours like turning on your camera in a video meeting as a proxy for engagement can easily blind us to where someone is really at. It may help, but then again, it may hinder.
Categories: Effective Teams