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Zoom Backgrounds: Professionalism or Personability

Slick corporate background or the home office? What your Zoom background says about you.

In today’s digital age, the way we present ourselves in virtual meetings holds significant weight. With the rise of remote work, Zoom backgrounds have become a common tool for individuals to personalise their virtual space. However, the debate over whether these backgrounds project professionalism or personability continues to stir up conversation, says Mike Chapman.

On one side of the argument, users of sleek, corporate backgrounds argue that they project a sense of professionalism and credibility. A clean, neutral backdrop devoid of distractions can help maintain focus on the speaker and the content being discussed. Additionally, for businesses aiming to maintain a consistent brand image, using branded backgrounds can reinforce their identity and enhance brand recognition among clients and colleagues.

Facts back up this viewpoint. Researchers at Durham University studied how Zoom backgrounds impacted people’s first impressions of someone, with professional backgrounds showing books and plants scoring the highest for rapport and likeability.

However, the counterargument suggests that overly polished backgrounds can sometimes come across as impersonal and detached. In contrast, a background that reveals a glimpse into a person’s home or real office can foster a sense of authenticity and relatability. This argument emphasises the human aspect of virtual meetings, acknowledging that we’re all navigating the challenges of remote work within the context of our unique environments.

Studies support this perspective as well. A survey conducted by Quantified Communications found that showing the room you are in can lead to positive outcomes, including increased trustworthiness and authenticity.

The events of the past few years have blurred the lines between work and personal life for many individuals. As remote work becomes more prevalent, acknowledging and embracing this blurring of boundaries can lead to more authentic and meaningful interactions. A background that showcases elements of one’s personal life can humanise the virtual experience and create opportunities for genuine connection beyond the confines of work-related discussions.

Ultimately, the choice between a professional or personable Zoom background depends on various factors, including the nature of the meeting, company culture, and personal preferences. Striking the right balance between professionalism and personability is key.

Here are some practical considerations for choosing the appropriate background.

Know your audience: Tailor your background based on who you’re meeting with and the context of the discussion. For formal client meetings or presentations, a professional background may be more suitable. However, for team check-ins or casual catch-ups, a more relaxed background could be appropriate.

Test different options: Experiment with different backgrounds to see what works best for you. Solicit feedback from colleagues or trusted peers to gauge their perceptions.

Be mindful of distractions: Regardless of the type of background you choose, ensure that it’s free of distractions that could detract from the conversation. Avoid cluttered or busy backgrounds that may divert attention away from the topic at hand.

In conclusion, the debate over Zoom backgrounds reflects the broader conversation surrounding the intersection of professionalism and authenticity in remote work environments. While professional backgrounds can convey credibility, personable backgrounds have the potential to foster genuine connections and humanise virtual interactions. Ultimately, the most effective approach may involve striking a balance between the two, recognizing that authenticity and professionalism are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Indie Ridge Digital supports small to mid-sized professional service firms with cutting-edge digital solutions, empowering them to showcase to both clients and talent why they should be the top choice.

Matt Baldwin
Matt Baldwin
Co-founder – Coast Communications

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