I worked remotely for 20 years before Covid and probably attended 10,000+ successfull web conference meetings that consisted of just audio and screen share. After reluctantly trying the constant webcam thing for 2 years, I can confidently report back that it is overrated. Add in the awkward virtual backgrounds and it feels like a habit that we all fell into and nobody wants to admit it might have been a mistake. Except for researchers, who have long warned us about this problem (see links below), and my eye doctor, who told me he is seeing more and more patients complaining of headaches and vision problems in the past 2 years.
Sure, it’s nice to see each other’s faces for a bit whenever we can’t get together in person. And, thankfully, the video quality has come a long way since I picked up my first 480-pixel webcam in the early 90’s from Babbage’s at the mall. But even if the audio and visual is in that rare and brief moment of perfect sync on a crystal clear 1080p video feed, I can’t concentrate on the presentation being shared or the person talking due to the overwhelming number of videos boxes shown, especially after adding in the distractions of multiple animated virtual backgrounds.
I’d rather give my eyes an occasional break from the screen, just like we do in face-to-face meetings where we concentrate on one person at a time with a presentation being shared at a more comfortable 10+ feet away rather than inches from our face.
Plus, reverting back to fun profile photos like this often creates a more intimate connection than staring at a bunch of webcams.
I’m breaking up with my webcam on Monday morning. We’ll still be friends and see each other occasionally. I’m also going back to broadcasting the screen share on a TV that is at the far end of my desk. I’m going to get my headset back out so that I can walk around the home office and break the lethargy that comes from an active guy like myself being forced to sit at a desk all day. Most importantly, I am going to enjoy having fewer headaches and more concentration with the person I am talking with.
Who’s with me in changing the way we interact remotely? The research below confirms that we have been doing it all wrong for the past 2 years.