Cameras on or Cameras off

Earlier in December I put out a post on Group Dynamics training. I received an interesting question from a fellow facilitator and coach regarding how teams are working through video calls.

She is working with a young management team who do not have cameras on during video calls for management meetings which surprised me. The unconscious cultural symbol from this way of working is – “We don’t need to see each other to work effectively.”

During our training, we insist that people have their cameras on, or if not, that they explain to the group why. Presence in a group is significant. Reading body language and ‘face language' is very important for the group. To see each other and witness each other creates group unity and psychological safety.

But was I missing a trick?

So we asked during future meetings and trainings, Cameras on or cameras off.

The results seemed clear

However as you can imagine the debate was strong and the main point which came out was what is the contaxt of the meeeting


As many people pointed out context was key.

For training, there was a very strong agreement that cameras should be on. Trainers talked about there being 'no place to hide'.

For meetings, it depended on the point of the meeting. Some people said it was fine to have cameras off if full concetration and presence was not needed - if the meeting was 'transactional'

For coaching, it was interesting that there were arguments for having camera on and off. Some people feel that they can go deeper and express more when not on camera. Also the coach needs to listen intently to what is being said.

But where the meeting required presence and deeper listening, then there was agreement cameras should be on.


Interestingly for some people, they really didn't want to see their own image staring back at themselves from the online meeting. In many cases now, there is the functionality to turn off your own image in an on-line meeting ('Hide self-view').

Hiding and Distraction

There was a concern from trainers and leaders that with cameras off, some people tend to hide and are actively distracted.

The tension between the individual and the group

One of the most interesting 'meta' points here with this discussion is the rights of the group versus the rights of the individual. Some people argued that camera on was the choice of the individual. However this favours the individual, not the group. This may impact on group cohesion and group psychological safety. When an individual enters a group (in a meeting or training), they are subject to the impact group dynamics - not only what they get from the group but what they offer. They need to consider their impact on the group and the group's impact on them. For the leader of a group, this can become complicated.

For more information on our Group/Team Dynamics training, please speak to our Consulting Director, Jonathan Lancaster or see more information here.

Written by:
Matt Burdock

Executive Coaching, Culture Measurement, Leadership Development.

December 15, 2021