I try not to do it. I’m not proud of it. However, recently I’ve found that I’m making lots of assumptions and judgements based on what’s going on behind my video conferencing friends during lockdown calls. Especially new acquaintances I’m meeting for the first time on a video call!
And if I’m doing it, then everyone else must be doing it too.
Untidy rooms, books on bookshelves, old curtains, that weird gaming chair, an amazing garden, interesting cups, that crazy picture on the wall, an unmade bed and a hundred others things I’ve observed and you can’t help but look at. Some good/positive, some bad/negative and some just a bit odd.
We’re all getting judged by the background state of our spare rooms, home offices and corners of lounges. Perceptions and carefully crafted online personal business profiles can be turned upside down by a backdrop that looks a little like Joe Exotic’s trailer or a set from Trainspotting.
Whilst there are some handy background options and blurring tools in many video calling products, these can sometimes become a bigger distraction and not always appropriate for a business call with new contacts. What does that background convey, what does it say about you and/or what is it hiding? A novelty at first, after a while people forget to turn their background effects on. Or off.
We don’t all have the luxury of a dedicated room for a home office or indeed space for a desk in any room. Matters are complicated by feral lockdown kids needing some Jo Wicks space and room for the latest ‘art’ project.
I totally understand and empathise, in our home there’s also a daily early morning negotiation about who needs the office for how many video calls and which of those calls are more important. I typically lose.
Taking all that into consideration, the best plan I think is to find a blank wall in the quietest room available and if possible make that the backdrop for your call. Then the focus is on you and you’re not giving anything away.
The last two months have been something of a pantomime but don’t be the Widow Twankey. It very much is behind you!