This Is Why You Should Feel Free to Turn Off Your Camera on Zoom

Zoom may have become "the norm" during the pandemic, but the video platform can hinder productivity rather than help it.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP
Founder of SMACK! Media
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There’s no question that Zoom fatigue is real, and we are all exhausted by it. At times, the video platform can feel stressful and ineffective. Even the CEO of Zoom, admitted that he had Zoom fatigue, and JP Morgan’s CEO, is ready to cancel all of his Zoom meetings. 

I am a communicator and connector, and I work with companies of all sizes  helping people, companies and brands define and best articulate their brand and company culture. This was especially important during the pandemic as transparency, honesty and personal connection were key, and we all learned this as we became more casual on Zoom: accepting no makeup and kids and pets in the background.

Related: 13 Leadership Lessons from Zoom Founder and CEO Eric Yuan

Zoom takes its toll 

I was on a call with a client, and she said, “I don’t go anywhere, I’ve turned into a true human Zooman, and I'm exhausted.” One week later, another client said to me, “Is it ok if we go off camera? I’ve been on Zoom all day!” I smiled and told them I was thrilled because while Zoom has its place, I find it works best in certain circumstances — when meeting new people, screen sharing, reconnecting or socializing. 

Many of my colleagues and clients agree. Some of them feel self-conscious about their appearances on camera, making it more difficult to fully engage with the person on the other side of the screen. In other words, some of us are overperforming to do our job, which can inhibit us from being ourselves. We shouldn't be judged for turning off the video at times; rather, we should be encouraged to do so. 

Throughout my career at SMACK! Media, and even during my Covid side hustle, Remotely Human, which is dedicated to helping companies and leaders better work from home, I've helped company leaders understand what teams need to maintain happier, healthier and more productive employees. Lightening the load of day-to-day tasks is one way to achieve that. 

Consider the toll that lockdown has taken on working parents who became schoolteachers, cooks, cleaning ladies, errand runners and the list goes on. On top of that, many have to sit in front of a screen and talk to someone for hours per day. In reality, a good old-fashioned phone call can serve the same purpose, allowing parents to accomplish more folding laundry, cooking, cleaning, driving kids to and from school and activities — while supporting their mental health. 

For years, I've taken while walking, and I've written about “Sweatworking” since 2015. Our minds and bodies perform best when they're happy, relaxed, motivated and believe it or not, when our heart rate is up a little bit. We're more creative when we’re outside, so if a meeting allows for it, give it a try. 

Related: 3 Trends That Will Define Remote Work in 2021

Tips to prevent Zoom fatigue 

I encourage you to be smarter about when video really is necessary and make it ok for people to turn off their cameras. And if you do need to be on a screen, the following three tips may help prevent the fatigue:

  1. Take the call on your phone. Not having a huge, close screen in front of you is helpful. Talking to a 13-inch screen is easier on the nervous system than talking to a 56-inch screen. Alternatively, you can switch to “speaker view,” which displays the person speaking in the largest window. 
  2. Take breaks in between Zoom calls. Get outside, re-center, walk around. Listen to music, do a five-minute meditation (Peloton has great ones!), read something funny or call a friend. There are many things you can do to work happier and healthier. 
  3. Set ground rules, especially as a CEO. Allow audio only for a couple meetings per week – we all know what we look like, and most calls truly don’t require video. Let the teams know in advance that they may go off-screen. I do this with clients and internal calls now, and I get thanked for it.

Audio-only team meetings or good old-fashioned phone calls where we can truly take efficient notes with our eyes not on the speaker make for more productive calls because we won’t be so focused on having to “perform” on screen. We also won’t be concerned about what the lighting looks like, kids in the background, partners or roommates walking or working behind us, and pets getting in the way. It’s okay to multi-task so long as the performance results and productivity are evident. 

Related: 5 Ways to Beat Zoom Fatigue

So, if I go audio-only during our next call, don’t judge me. I can assure you that my mind will be more clear, and you will have more of my even if I am taking a walk, stretching on the floor or cooking dinner while I speak to you. I will work my hardest and most effectively for you. I will be focused, taking notes and generating positive results for you. And most of all, smiling as I do it. 

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