Have you heard of ‘Zoom Dysmorphia’?
I hadn’t until the pandemic when our daily work lives were spent communicating virtually so much more than usual.
A Harvard University Study
What does Zoom Dysmorphia mean? It is defined as a negative perception of one’s body due to spending long periods of time on video calls. Harvard University researched this, then named it Zoom Dysmorphia. The study was prompted by an increase in new consultations for plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and others in related fields. People had a distorted image of themselves after the pandemic, and they desired interventions to improve their self-image.
Why do people experience Zoom Dysmorphia?
If you look at yourself in a camera all day, you may become obsessed and worried about how you look, just like anyone else with Body Dysmorphia. Front-facing cameras do not provide a flattering angle, and depending on positioning, you may be seeing your own face in much greater detail than you would in normal office interactions. Elizabeth Hall, a professional Life Coach, brought awareness about body image: Overcoming Body Image in a Thin-Centric World on my Mental Health Chats YouTube Channel. You may want to watch about it here.
Losing Connection and Building Trust
The problem is that we are not in the office face-to-face, we have lost a sense of connection and trust. When I deliver workshops online, I notice a much stronger sense of connection and trust when the attendees have their cameras turned on.
I have even done a few activities around this with groups who do not want to turn their cameras on. In one activity, I first asked everyone to turn off their cameras, then I talked for five minutes. Then I asked for cameras to be turned on and asked how they felt. What is the distinction? Do they feel closer now? Attendees cannot believe the difference in their feelings, being more involved and feeling more connected, on each occasion.
Build a Comfortable Environment to Build Trust
What can we do as managers to help our team feel more comfortable with their cameras on? Here are 5 ways:
- Explain the benefits to the team of having their cameras on. Start by highlighting the positive impact of having cameras on during meetings. Emphasise how it builds teamwork, belonging, and inclusion. Tell them that seeing each other’s expressions and body language improves communication and teamwork.
- Set expectations of when to turn the camera on. Send the team an email or message before the meeting explaining why cameras are needed and when. Setting expectations in advance lets people prepare mentally and logistically.
- Be sensitive about taking a Zoom photo. You may ask before the meeting, so people expect it. Also, tell them they can email you beforehand if they do not want to be in the photo. Allow people to opt out of photos if they’re uncomfortable or concerned about privacy.
- Have fun themes for virtual meetings. I’ve worked with companies that introduce fun meeting themes like “Fun Friday,” where participants can dress up. One company had a different dress-up theme every Friday from wearing the most garish makeup to the funniest wig. This light-hearted approach relaxes participants, encourages engagement, and reduces camera phobia.
- Initiate private chats. Talk to individuals privately who never have their cameras on. You could tell them you noticed they never have their cameras on and ask them why. This one-on-one conversation shows you care about their well-being and addresses any underlying issues that may be affecting their camera usage.
The bigger picture with regards Zoom
So many organisations I work with do not consider the bigger picture, do not understand why they should address certain issues, and do not understand the benefits of addressing these issues for better mental health for their teams.
By starting the conversation, you will begin to build trust in your team and allow people to confide in one another. Once awareness has been raised, team members can approach each other or you as the manager for additional assistance or information. Team members who are self-conscious about their issues begin to gain confidence and step up within the team, making the process easier for everyone.
By implementing these strategies, managers can create a supportive environment where team members feel encouraged and comfortable to have their cameras on, ultimately enhancing collaboration, trust, and team dynamics during online meetings.
Managers, if you want to find out more about how you can help strategise in promoting positive mental health and emotional fitness for your team, schedule a free Strategy Call with me here and let me assist you.