I recently did a free q/a session (my little way of paying forward and helping during this uncertain time). BTW: I will be continuing these so feel free to message me here or on LinkedIn for an invite.
During the first session, a question was posed about how to get others willing to turn on their cameras. As someone that has worked extensively with remote teams, I have found these common patterns:
- Technology: Maybe no webcam. Maybe the wifi can’t handle the load. I know that when I’m in a hotel, sometimes I have to turn off the video just because it keeps freezing. If this is the case, see if there are webcam loaner options, funding options for increase bandwidth, etc. One key point to make here is that people might not be super forthcoming about this topic – if they are financially stressed, simply buying a webcam might not be a choice.
- Discomfort: I learned a long time ago that many people dislike their image on video – as well as their voice. Telling them to just get over it; newsflash…that won’t work. Some minor things that could help is to update working agreements to not take screen shots and limit recording to start. You could also have people switch the videos on for brief moments – to visually all give a roman vote (instead of trying to confirm everyone is on board in chat – which takes longer). In some cases, you may have to have a private discussion. What are you really losing by them not on video, what are they really losing by not being on video, does it have to be all the time and what experiments would they be willing to try. There is also a discomfort of exposing one’s home. For this, I recommend virtual backgrounds (which many tools now have) or getting a screen (if possible) or even putting a sheet up behind you. Also, having a frank conversation about what might happen – my kids/husband might come into the picture, you might see laundry on the couch, etc. Remember that this is complete uncharted territory for everyone – we can all be supportive of the life others lead.
- Benefits: As leaders, we often make assumptions that people understand why we want video on. However, have we every really talked about the benefits? For example, do people understand that because of the visual cues – we are better at interrupting and making sure others are heard. Who knows, during this conversation, the team may lead themselves to wanting to turn on video (at least in specific scenarios). This is also the time to reinforce that there should not be an expectation that people are on video for hours and hours at a time. This would be exhausting for anyone! Oh and I should mention – I’m totally in support of tasty beverage hours where no work is discussed but the team can just chat and hang out over video.
- Multi-tasking: The first three are real and we need to meet people where they are at. This one falls into another category for me. When I dig deep enough on “but I don’t want to turn on video” – often there is an element of a desire to multi-task and if they are on video, they can’t. YEP, 100%. Working remotely is challenging alone. Dealing with people pretending they can successfully multi-task is a non starter for me. I don’t want the video meeting to take longer or not be effective because you were checking email while we were chatting. I know, it’s super easy and honestly some of our meetings are so boring. Then spend your time getting creative about improving the meeting not distracting yourself. No one wins with multi-tasking. My biggest reason/benefit to do video – is to prevent this very thing. I’m upfront about this and sometimes I struggle with it too.
I have no doubt there are other reasons. These are the most common patterns I’ve experienced. If your teams went from co-located to completely remote, remember, they may just need a bit of time to adjust to the new environment too. I can still recall the first time I “worked from home”. I woke up and thought – “Score! I don’t have to shower or get dressed. I can lounge around for the day while I work.” Then that video request came. What? You want me to turn video on? You must be crazy. Now, I’ll turn that video on no matter what I look like in the moment. That took some time and trust with my colleagues. As well as, learning what I need to do to be the most productive at home.
How have you increased video use in the team?