During the pandemic, remote meetings became the norm, and as a result, people had to get used to being seen via video calls in their home environments. To avoid revealing personal details such as their children, pets or household messes, many individuals opted for using virtual backgrounds. However, a study conducted by the British University of Durham and published in the scientific journal Plos One revealed that virtual backgrounds may not always make a good impression on other meeting participants.
In this study, researchers led by Reader Paddy Ross showed subjects smiling and serious individuals sitting in front of six different backgrounds such as a blank wall, a bookshelf, houseplants, a view of a living room, a blurred living room view and an arctic landscape with a walrus lying on a glacier. Participants were asked to evaluate the trustworthiness and competence of the people in the pictures. The results were surprising as they showed that the background can have a significant impact on how people perceive each other in remote meetings. Individuals with bookshelves or houseplants visible behind them were considered more reliable and competent while smiling significantly improved their ratings. On the other hand, the worst reviews were given to those with arctic landscapes behind them.
The study highlights the importance of considering your virtual background during video calls and how it can influence how others perceive you in professional settings. It is essential to choose your background carefully and ensure it aligns with your professional image to avoid negative impressions on others during remote meetings.