Remember when you'd bump into your school teacher outside of class, say - at the grocery store with their children or out at a restaurant, and your mind was blown because you never realized they were actual people? It was so hard to fathom that they existed outside of school, and played a role other than your teacher. Then, when you next saw them again at school, they seemed different to you. Like you were in on a secret of who they truly were and that connected you to them in a way you hadn't felt before. And you were, perhaps, a bit kinder to them that day.
I used to experience the same feeling on dress-down Fridays when I worked in Banking. Remember those? When everyone would show up to work in their real clothes and the office felt so much more relaxed? It was strange seeing my buttoned up co-worker in jeans and sneakers but it was also quite refreshing - seeing a side of them that was kept hidden on M-Th. And we acted differently, too. Was it because it was Friday? Or were our true selves less stifled without our buttons?
Both of these examples come to mind as I was thinking about the value of bringing your whole and true self to work. There is a different, stronger type of connection (empathy, understanding, friendship) formed when you see someone in their natural habitat. And turning your camera on, exposing your make-up free face, your messy kitchen, your rock collection, your kids artwork, or whatever you choose to show, is just another way to build connection. It's a way of saying, "Here I am. I'm a human being. Just like you."
It also increases the chances that the messages are being conveyed as intended. The majority of our communication is transmitted via non-verbal cues. So if I turn my camera off, you may get the tone and inflection of my voice, but you can't see that I'm confused, or excited, or smiling, or bored. And if you have introverts on your team who sometimes communicate with these cues before they open their mouths, you will miss their reactions completely.
Please share your video!
1. Because I'm sharing mine and I don't want to stare at myself, or a blank screen, while we meet on this important topic that requires full engagement
2. Because I'm lonely at home. I miss the office and seeing your faces makes my day (and this meeting) infinitely better
3. Because almost 90% of the way we communicate is not through our words but how we express them and there's a good chance I'm missing or misinterpreting what you're saying.
4. Because I like being reminded that you're a human being, just like me.
What are some other reasons to share your camera?
What can you do to start a culture of camera sharing at your company? (And if this already exists at your company, how have you done this?)
When should you NOT share your camera?
(Also, the photo on this post is merely a re-enactment. My amazing camera-sharing colleagues turned their video off just so I could capture the photo.)