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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Jul 29, 2022


Staring at yourself in a video call turns out to be a real downer.



Welcome to episode 148 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how staring at yourself on a video call is a real downer.

Video calls can really sap our energy. Our brain isn’t very well equipped to focus on so many faces at once, making the gallery view in Teams and Zoom particularly challenging for our attention and energy levels. We can also find seeing ourselves on screen distracting. But recent research shows it’s even worse than that - staring at ourselves during a video call actually worsens our mood. Researchers found people tend to look at others more than themselves when on a video call. By tracking participant eye movements though, they found variations in how much time people spent looking at themselves. Those who stared at themselves more tended to demonstrate greater drops in their mood and emotional state across the video call. The researchers even allowed some participants to drink low amounts of alcohol during the experiment, which is usually associated with increased mood and sociability. However, during video calls these same low levels of alcohol did not increase sociability and mood. The nature of the video call dampened these typically positive effects.

So what do we do with all of that? It’s unlikely you’re drinking during work calls, so let’s just park that finding. But one practical thing you can do is to remove your self-view. Once you are setup and sure your camera is working, Zoom and Teams allow you to hide the view you have of yourself. This will help you to focus on the other person. You can also look at other settings that allow you to focus on the person speaking, rather than showing all participants at once. Some leaders I’m working with have even tried phone conferences as a way to change up the approach they take to meetings. So this week, try to stop staring at yourself. It will make you feel better.



University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau. (2022, June 13). Staring at yourself during virtual chats may worsen your mood. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 27, 2022 from