The age of flexible working has drastically altered how we interact with our colleagues on a daily basis. Just a few short years ago we would make our impressions count through water cooler chitchat, during lunch breaks, or through collaborating in person when in the office. Today, for millions of us, this has all been replaced by video conferencing.
Today, many of us only visually interact with our colleagues through team calls. Platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype have replaced office meeting rooms and we’re tasked with presenting who we are within small snippets via our webcams.
Although remote work has been a popular transition for employees, it’s fundamentally changed the impressions we make when we interact with our colleagues.
Although we can leave conscious impressions when on video conferencing platforms, there are also many unconscious impressions we can leave which are altogether more difficult to manage.
These unconscious impressions can build perceptions of the kind of employee we are, our approachability, and even our personality in ways that we may be completely unaware of.
Luckily, it’s possible to manage how we appear to colleagues and even promote a more positive impression of ourselves by making a series of small adjustments. With this in mind, let’s explore six key unconscious impressions we’re giving off when collaborating remotely and how to manage them:
1. Your Facial Expressions Talk For You
When you’re using video conferencing software, it’s important to note that only a small portion of your body is in view. Humans have a wide range of communication methods that can involve plenty of body language to underline our opinions, reactions, and moods. Without these in the shot, our facial expressions become more pronounced in the eyes of our colleagues.
This means that the way we look when we’re in ‘passive’ mode and listening to others can be crucial. Although some of us can claim to be cursed with a ‘resting bitch face’, this doesn’t mean that you can’t seek to look engaged and attentive when others are talking.
Blank expressions can lead to others believing that you’re uninterested, or disengaged. Although it’s important to remain relaxed when communicating with others, working on adopting a small smile while listening to others can be a great form of unconscious communication to suggest that you’re interested and content.
2. You Are What You Wear
Although it’s likely to only be the top of your torso in the frame, it’s vital that you dress in an appropriate way for your video calls.
The beauty of remote work is that it can empower employees to work on their terms, and in a more casual manner. Although this means that wearing a suit to a conference call may be a little drastic, dressing down can leave a subconscious impression that you’re apathetic about the topics being discussed.
Avoid being too casual, don’t wear a hat or distracting patterns. Though it can certainly feel tempting to wear a shirt and pajama bottoms to attend a call, dressing down can be a subconscious prompt for you to feel unprepared in a professional setting–albeit a remote one.
3. Review Your Framing
You could have your facial expressions measured to perfection and the best work attire for your call, but with the wrong framing, your commitment and care could be all in vain.
Proximity is a key subconscious trigger point for audience perceptions of you as a communicator. If you’re too far away, you’ll appear less engaging, while positioning yourself too close can be more intimidating.
Your background will also be key here. If you have clutter in view of the camera, it can be distracting and may give off the impression that you’re more disorganized and thus less likely to be a voice of authority on the subject matter.
Be sure to run a quick three-point check of the view of your camera to ensure that your positioning, clutter, and attire are in check.
4. Your Small Talk is Essential
The ability to fill dead air with small talk can be a key quality that can help to ensure a smooth conferencing environment. Some of the subjects covered can be tense and stressful, and nerves can build if you’re unwilling to cut the air with a little calming chat before or after the meeting gets underway.
If you’re unwilling to engage with the individuals you’re meeting on off-topic subjects, it can make you appear more closed-off and less personable. Here, it could be worth learning something about the people you’re meeting at the start of the call. For instance, do they like sports? Have they seen a specific recent movie? Do they have any charitable causes they work for? By bonding over off-topic chitchat, you can become more approachable and will be viewed as a desired point of contact should important matters come up.
5. Your Choice of Color is an Insight into Your Personality
Your choice of color is another key consideration when it comes to video conferencing. It’s long been acknowledged that different colors can bring different unconscious impressions for individuals, and in a teams call where there’s no body language for our brains to analyze, the importance of color can be magnified further.
Famously, colors like red are associated with danger and can make wearers appear more erratic when it comes to calls. Although black and white suits are popular formal wear, they risk making the wearer appear more distant to other participants.
Stronger color combinations can offer a sense of vibrancy and can help individuals to view you as a more personable individual within the company. These perceptions can extend to eyewear, and opting for more colorful frames can help you to stand out from the crowd and carry a knowledgeable and spontaneous appearance.
Although your style doesn’t have to be too off-the-wall, brands like Versace offer thousands of options of different subtle color blends within their eyewear ranges, and they’re certainly not the only fashion house to bring this vibrancy to the workplace.
6. Little Details Make a Big Impression
Finally, it’s crucial to note that little details like combing your hair, brushing your teeth, and perking yourself up with a coffee can go a long way in the impression that you give your colleagues.
There’s no use in hiding behind pixels, be sure to tidy up your appearance to help avoid the pitfall of making colleagues feel as though you’re a messy person than thus more prone to making errors or inconsistencies in your talks.
Although it can seem like a balancing act to ensure that you make the right impression on video calls, the reward of having your colleagues, teams, managers, clients, or customers viewing you as an approachable, personable, and authoritative figure can lead to better business relationships and a happier working environment.