The world's exponential use of Zoom, Microsoft Teams or any other remote computing collaboration software for the work environment highlights the need to be visible and helpfully personifies a voice from a distance. While it's easy to just be on camera and speak when called upon or participating in the conversation, what's hard is maintaining eye contact with your audience.
In some ways, it's almost as if you're on stage, not addressing any one person, but a group of people, in which situations the most often heeded guidance is to look over their heads to avoid the feeling of nervousness. (On the other hand, speaking in front of these small groups still gives us the practice of public speaking.)
In one-on-one conversations, it's become too easy to avoid eye contact. Our vision is constantly distracted, whether it's our cell phones, a second / third / fourth monitor, or a family member crossing your field of vision. We hardly have real eye contact anymore. Even if it looks like you are face-to-face, the other person could easily just have your video minimized and could be staring at something else on the screen; it just so happens that the camera is on that screen.
I predict that once we go back to working in-office, our newly formed habits will overrule our once professional routine of locking eyes with our conversation partners. We will seemingly be distracted in the face of our colleagues, our eyes constantly wandering over their shoulders, looking down, peering at our phones, or if close enough to our desks, starting at our monitor while trying to carry a conversation.
I'll tell you now that this bad habit needs to be kicked. So practice being engaged with your counterparts on-screen now. Close your other windows. Minimize your distractions. Fully immerse yourselves in whom you are working with. Connect visually, not just audibly. You'll be more productive that way too.
Just because we're working remotely, doesn't mean we have to sacrifice our in-office etiquette.
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