The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to work remotely and conduct meetings via video calls. As a result, individuals began to use virtual backgrounds to hide their children, pets or household messes from their colleagues during these calls. However, a study conducted by the British University of Durham and published in the scientific journal Plos One revealed that using virtual backgrounds may not necessarily make a good impression on other meeting participants.
In the study, Reader Paddy Ross and his team showed participants smiling and serious individuals sitting in front of six different backgrounds, including a blank wall, bookshelf, houseplants, view of a living room, blurred living room view and an arctic landscape with a walrus lying on glacier. Participants were asked to evaluate the trustworthiness and competence of the people in the pictures. The results 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, those with a walrus landscape received the worst reviews.
Overall, this study highlights the importance of choosing appropriate virtual backgrounds when conducting video calls for professional purposes as they can greatly influence how others perceive you in a meeting setting.