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SMILE! -your camera has shafted you

Do you work from home—at least some of the time? Is it revealing that you’re a “quiet quitter”? That’s someone who does what the job requires. But not much more. Instead, they cherish their discretionary time.

They’re reluctant to seek success by doing what employers traditionally seek—people who will readily go the extra mile.

With your webcam off, you can sneak a smoke, drink alcohol, sleep or pop out to the shops. The boss will never know. Research confirms that more than three out of four workers turn off their webcams to hide what they’re doing. This rises to 85% for those aged under 24.

While the results provide a fascinating insight into employee behaviour when they switch off the webcam, researchers say that it:

“…raises serious points about how to engage those to whom you are speaking on a video call and what we can do to improve the quality of those interactions.”

Suddenly seeing a person’s camera go off causes doubts about whether they’re still listening. Or even there.

Similar issues arise because employees fail to hit the mute or blank screen buttons. One in five (19%), for example, admit to forgetting they were on camera and doing something embarrassing. A further 16% say they have failed to press the mute button and then said something insulting or awkward about someone else on the call.

What does this emergent employee behaviour tell us about the search for success at work? For there are real consequences both personally and for the organisation.

One in 25 office workers (4%) say they have even lost their job because of what happened while on a video call. It all adds up to lower standards in the office.

For example, three out of four of your fellow workers probably believe that etiquette during in-person meetings has worsened due to more video calls since the pandemic.

Here are some of the ways things have deteriorated at work:

  • People look at their phones more frequently in meetings (51%)

  • Individuals are poorly presented (47%)

  • There is less attention (43%)

  • Presenting skills are worse (33%)

  • There’s a lack of respect for working hours (30%)

  • People arrive late for meetings (24%)

  • They leave meetings without excusing themselves (19%)

These provide you with ready-made opportunities to stand out from the crowd. Avoid some of the behaviours listed above, and your boss, worried about performance and engagement, will most likely notice. That can be an essential step along the road to success.

While most of us are working remotely, we’re using our webcams more than ever to hold video meetings with our colleagues. If you have these arrangements, watch for anything suspicious on the call, and only let team members in by giving them a password.

Webcam hackers don’t need much to take control of your camera. They use malware to hijack your webcam, and then without your knowledge, they can start to take videos and images of you from a remote location.

If the hacker is interested in your personal information, such as files stored in the computer and your regular browsing history, the malware will help accomplish that, too.

While your boss is unlikely to be involved in that, take security seriously.

Listen to podcast Episode 5—Minding Manners.


L. Baker Three-quarters of office workers admit to turning off webcam on video calls to hide what they’re up to, 2022:

R. Elezaj, 4 ways to know if someone is watching you on your camera, 2020:


For more ways to succeed at work, listen to my next
Podcast! Every Monday.


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