The Video Caller’s Dilemma
Our team-based culture has always been central to VSA’s success. When we shifted to an all-remote workplace, we worried that we might lose the sense of teamwork and comradery that’s built up through our in-person interactions—particularly the regular meetings we hold with our clients and each other.
Fortunately, though, we live in the age of video conferencing. So even though we can’t meet in person, we’re still able to see each other’s faces on Zoom!
Video calls are a great substitute, but an imperfect one. In addition to the medium’s obvious practical limitations, it also forces us to scrutinize our own actions—including those that come so naturally in-person that we take them for granted.
For instance, here are four examples of things our team members report paying special attention to in order to not look silly:
- Their hands. Whether they’re folded in front of you, shoved into your pockets, or busy taking notes, the actions of your hands are obvious during an in-person meeting. On video, though, hands are much more mysterious. If they’re on-screen, chances are they’re blocking your face. And if they’re off-screen, who knows what they could be up to?
- Their eyes. Making eye contact is only natural during in-person conversations—but it’s so difficult during a video call! This is, of course, due to the same phenomenon that many of us have previously encountered in sports stadiums while waving to the jumbotron: the screen is in a different location from the camera, and it’s impossible to look in both places at once!
- The position of their screen. The instant you turn on your webcam, you’re allowing your colleagues to see whatever slice of your home is in the background… so what will they see? A few tastefully-framed pictures? A well-ordered bookshelf? The piles of clutter you’ve been putting off dealing with for weeks? And if you’re using a laptop, you have to consider not just the background, but the angle of the screen. Can your colleagues see only your eyes? Only your chin? Are they being treated to an unexpectedly detailed view of your ceiling fan? Framing yourself—and your background—is so important!
- Themselves! Though seemingly obvious, this is sometimes a difficult adjustment: you have to remember you’re on camera! At VSA in particular, this can be tricky; we’re all so used to being on the telephone, but the video component is still relatively new. It’s weirdly easy to get up and wander around the room, as if we’re on speaker phone, forgetting that others can see us!
Despite this completely unprecedented business environment, we feel lucky that we can carry on our regular meetings with team members and clients through the magic of the internet. Had this virus hit us 30 years ago, who knows what we would’ve done?
At least for the for time being, video calls are offering our team-based culture an important lifeline. Still, as these examples show, that doesn’t mean we won’t stumble a little as we attempt to grab hold!
This is ultimately all just one case study in how VSA approaches new challenges: with determination, open minds, a focus on improvement, and—of course—a sense of humor.