As the global workforce transitioned to remote and hybrid work because of the covid-19 pandemic, video communication tools served critical to provide business continuity and social connectedness.
Surveys show that video conferencing solutions are being used by teams to increase productivity, stay connected and improve engagement in the company.
Additionally, teams found themselves relying on these video communication tools like Zoom and Google meet to fill gaps created in the abrupt transition to remote work, such as building team cohesion which relied heavily on being located in a physical location. This meant, activities like remote one-on-ones started thriving via video calls.
Video conferencing solutions have evolved to allow for greater flexibility, autonomy and creativity in terms of backgrounds not just because of their wide audience but also because users from their wide spectrum of usage demanded it.
The new normal of hybrid work now allows the workforce the flexibility to choose to work from anywhere. This also means there could be a need for isolating the background reality from the work world which is where virtual backgrounds come into play.
Additionally, Not all people have a dedicated place for work which means there can be some information that is sensitive in nature or can be personally revealing. Backgrounds for video calls can be an excellent means of combating that problem of inadvertently revealing personal information.
For companies that are using video calls with external entities, virtual backgrounds can be a perfect means to bring across their brand messaging, and product positioning in a very subtle and persistent way throughout the call. It can also include information about contact details, pricing plans, or just your company mascot. These all create brand awareness and help cement your company in the minds of the people on the call. Additionally, for teams that work remotely, virtual backgrounds that put across their company’s branding also has the added benefit of making the call a bit more professional by removing the background noise as it might not be possible for everyone to actually have a separate place to conduct video calls.
Virtual backgrounds can be excellent ice breakers as they interest and intrigue the other people on the call. It also helps people on the call relate to something that you may have in common which helps building relationships. It's been a testing year for everyone, with the covid-19 pandemic affecting each and every one out there. Taking small steps to spark conversations and taking mind off grim situations can help alleviate some stress along with acting as a nice conversation starter.
Choosing backgrounds that might be distracting to your participants means you are hampering the experience of the entire video call. It can be tempting to make yourself a potato on a zoom call but exercise restraint for the sake of everyone else. Be conscious in choosing a virtual background that doesn’t add more visual noise to the call which can eventually hamper the experience for everyone else in the call.
Not all calls and not all participants appreciate your wit or your effort to make the call a bit more interesting. Understanding your audience is key, whether or not they’ll find it offensive, unprofessional or uncomfortable is important and choose a virtual background that doesn’t offend anyone or be inappropriate to your audience.
Pets have always accompanied humans through their tough times and generally impart a feeling of warmth and compassion. This helps better the mood of the call and is appreciated by a wide audience making it a safe choice. A picture of your cat playing with its ball of wool is sure to garner some laughs, break the ice, and kick off the meeting on a positive note. On the other hand, if you don’t own a pet, stock imagery websites like Unsplash are always at your disposal and you can download (for free) pictures of your favorite animals and use them as your virtual background.
Scenes from your favorite TV show or movies, people you look upto, and quotes that resonate with you the most make great backgrounds. These types of virtual backgrounds help reflect your personality and interests which can initiate interesting conversations, alleviate the morale of the people on the call using references, or help build cohesion in the team using the background as a means to connect and bond. Be warned, you can get carried away very quickly and end up with virtual backgrounds that distract your audience, make them uncomfortable or worse.
Some examples that are safe to use in most situations are:
It's hard to go wrong with choosing a nice lake as a virtual background to your next zoom call. Snow capped swiss alps, great wide rivers, rising sun, and calming forests are all good options. You can also go with beach backgrounds in the summer and have campfire backgrounds in the winter. These types of pictures of nature have the added advantage of bringing about a relaxing effect to the entire call which can help everybody think calmly and have a productive call.
Cheering on and showing support to your sports team that’s playing this weekend is a perfect conversation starter. But know this, there might be people on the call who support the opposing team and so be prepared for a spirited conversation! It's as close as you can get to a physical office environment where you’d be conversing with your teammates about the weekend’s game. These are excellent conversation starters, and build cohesion in the team.
Last but not the least, always have a set of virtual backgrounds that showcase your company, and its values. These are best used on company wide meetings, interview calls, new hire introductions, or calls with any external entities and you are representing your company the best you can with some visual aid! These are simple and easy to create using apps like Canva or Figma in no time. Here are some templates for Canva.
At hatica, we make use of virtual meetings for both customer calls and one-on-ones with team members as a team building activity! We’re building a work analytics platform for the leaders of tomorrow to give them a one stop dashboard that gives them a complete understanding of how their teams work.
If this interests you, check out our job board links here and come say hi!