By David Gales

In the work-from-home world that has become routine for so many of us, we all rely heavily on web conferencing apps like Teams, Zoom, WebEx and GoToMeeting to collaborate with our colleagues. But not everyone turns on their camera. I get it. It’s natural to feel self-conscious about being on camera, especially with all the background chaos that working at home has introduced for a lot of people.

These days we’re all carrying more burdens and experiencing more chaos in our lives, and sometimes that affects the way we interact with each other. It’s often quicker and easier to send one-word emails than to take the time to really connect. I’ve found myself falling into that trap – until recently when I experienced something that really opened my eyes to the value of seeing another human on the other end of a call.

I was working with someone I’d never met in person and we were struggling to get aligned and make headway on our project. We were communicating mostly through email and Teams calls. Neither of us ever turned on our video camera and it felt like we weren’t really collaborating. There was no casual chit chat. There was no humor. It was just unpleasant work that I came to dread – and I think they did, too. Then one time I turned on my camera when I started our call. When they joined and saw that my camera was on, they turned on their camera, too. What happened next might seem so minor, but it was really nice. They smiled. I smiled. We had a brief chat before digging into our project, and as our work session progressed, we looked each other in the eye and really listened to what the other one had to say. By the end of the call I felt really good about what we’d accomplished, and I realized I had enjoyed working with this person. For the first time, I was looking forward to our next call.

So, what’s the moral of this story? Let’s turn on our video cameras and find our humanity in this new world order. You just might meet someone you like, feel a little less isolated, and be a lot more productive.

(Thank you to Jonah Grifenhagen for appearing in this post, even though he always turns on his video camera.)