Forget the meaningless background in Zoom

Man is a mood builder, says the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. Not what you are, but true you are is important. It is not without reason that we create a different space for every conversation. You don’t organize a creative holiday in the conference room, nor do you organize a job interview in a busy canteen. Place and conversation are intertwined.

Now that we had to work from home en masse due to corona, our shared workspaces fell away. We got something in return: a glimpse into the living rooms of colleagues. All valuable information to get to know your colleagues better! Yet many people hide that information by putting themselves in front of a virtual background.

According to design expert Danielle Arets, this is very understandable. “If you’re not well prepared for a video call and your room is cluttered, then you quickly pick the next best virtual wallpaper,” she says. But due to the limited offer of Zoom and Teams, that did not always work out well. Arets sums up: “The beach, a grassy meadow, the universe, the Golden Gate Bridge, a white office space without furniture. They are all backgrounds that have nothing to do with our daily practice.”

Can a different design help us? Video services can offer other backgrounds that better match the atmosphere of our work practice, but they can also stimulate their users to think more about it. This is possible with a small adjustment in the design. Date picker is a good example, says Arets: “First you have to indicate what you want to plan: a business meeting, a party, a dinner. Then you can choose from atmospheric images that match or you can upload an image yourself.” It would help if you were first asked in Zoom or Teams whether you are going to have a business conversation.

What can we already do ourselves? You can upload your own background in Zoom and Teams. According to Arets, we could be much more creative with that. “Set a special piece of art as your background, or the festival you wish you had attended this summer,” she suggests. “It gives you an insight into your personality. You create a conversation opening to tell more about yourself.”

There are even companies that make a personalized background for you, says Arets. She refers to the American company Books by the Foot that arranges bookshelves with your favorite books, and makes a nice picture of it that you can use as a background.

You can also bring business elements into your home environment, Arets says. “Employers give their employees mugs of the company to display during video meetings. That is much nicer than a virtual background with the company logo.”

What are the disadvantages? Of course you can go too far in personalizing your background. “Some people put themselves on the set of Sex and the City of Godzilla”, says Arets. Not the best choice for a business meeting. So think in advance what you want to achieve with your Zoom background. Arets: “For many people, being aware of this is already a step forward.”

This is how you adjust the virtual background in Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Skype.

Source: Kennislink by

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