Since the beginning of the pandemic, Zoom meetings have skyrocketed. Just to give you an idea, at the end of 2019, the maximum number of Zoom participants in a day was 10 million. By March of 2020, that number ballooned to 200 million.
With the rise of Zoom has come the advent of virtual backgrounds. They’re popular enough that we’ve all either seen or used them, and they can be entertaining. But they can also be annoying.
For one thing, people fade in and out of them. For another, the background chosen most often doesn’t match the purpose or tone of the meeting. However, they do provide a layer of privacy if you’re reticent to (virtually) allow people in meetings directly into your home.
Virtual backgrounds may be appropriate for some Zoom meetings but not others. For example, a tropical island paradise might be great for happy hour, but not so much for work.
Quantified Communications researched opinions on virtual backgrounds. They determined that most people prefer to see the room behind a person in Zoom meetings rather than fake scenery. Clothes matter, too–neutral, business casual is your best bet for a work meeting. Unless you’re trying to come across as innovative. Dress more formally if you want to be seen as an expert. But clothes don’t matter nearly as much as your background.
Using your own home as your background generates a sense of trust and intimacy. It provides a glimpse of who you are, which is seen as a positive by most people.
In a survey Quantified Communications conducted, 60 percent of respondents cared about background in virtual meetings. Showing the actual room that you’re in was the most popular choice. According to the research, most people would rather see a bookshelf or home decor behind you than a blank wall or phony scenic panorama. For trustworthiness, authenticity, or expertise, your own home is the way to go, even with its natural distractions.
It seems safe to say that you probably shouldn’t use a virtual background if you want to be taken seriously at work. But there is something to be said for privacy. It’s understandable why some people wouldn’t necessarily want you to see inside their home, especially for those who have young children at home all day. In those cases, of course, it would make sense to find a small space of orderliness among the chaos for your Zoom audience. But if you’re just putting up a virtual background to be clever or funny, your best bet is to save it for those Cards Against Humanity games with your friends. You can access my contact my scheduling page here if you’d like to chat more about workspace organizing.