4 in 10 Workers Stage Backgrounds Before Zoom Calls

4 in 10 Workers Stage Backgrounds Before Zoom Calls

Blank wall perceived as the least intelligent, trustworthy and professional background
A video call staged with plants and flowers

With Zoom calls being the go-to communication method for much of the remote workforce, some workers are taking steps to ensure their video backgrounds give off the right impression.

Before signing on to a video call, 40% of workers “always” or “often” stage their backgrounds, according to a survey by online signage platform Signs.com. Another 35% “sometimes” take steps to set the scene.

While their intentions may be to convey an aura of professionalism and approachability, the chosen backgrounds don’t always evoke the desired reactions.

Video calls taking up time, effort

For many workers, video conferencing calls are taking up a large portion of their days. In fact, an earlier survey found that nearly 4 in 10 were experiencing video call fatigue. Having to appear before colleagues on video rather than communicating with them via phone may also be a contributing factor as to why so many remote workers feel like they have to be “always on."

Nevertheless, many workers make an effort to prepare their surroundings for a successful call.

According to the Signs.com survey, women were slightly more likely than men to stage their video calls, with 44% doing so compared with 38% of men.

The most common step taken was adjusting the lighting, as 71% have done that before a video call for work. That was followed by:

  • 63% who have tidied up the workspace around them
  • 60% who have adjusted their webcam angle to improve the aesthetics
  • 56% who have added or removed items around or behind them
  • 36% who have moved to a different location in the home that is more pleasant to the eye

Among those who added items to their Zoom backgrounds, 45% made sure natural lighting or a window was visible. More than 4 in 10 — 41% — posed in front of a blank wall, and 32% added plants or artwork to their visible surroundings. Other common props included:

  • A bookshelf (31%)
  • Family pictures (24%)
  • Degrees or awards (18%)
  • Candles (18%)

Interestingly, men were 5% more likely than women to place degrees, awards and other accolades in their Zoom backgrounds.

Creating the right impression

Despite the time and care workers are taking to influence others’ perceptions of them during video calls, some may be creating the wrong impression.

Survey participants were asked to give their thoughts about different Zoom backgrounds, and to designate whether those backgrounds made people appear intelligent, trustworthy, approachable and professional.

Those who sat in front of a blank wall were perceived to be the least intelligent, trustworthy and professional of all of the backgrounds.

On the flip side, those who sat in front of plants were most likely to be perceived as intelligent, trustworthy and approachable.

For those whose goal is to appear professional, a bookshelf behind you is your best bet, followed by plants and a piece of art.

Methodology: Signs.com surveyed 1,507 people who take part in video calls for work on a monthly or more frequent basis.The survey was taken on or around Sept. 17, 2020.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.