Amidst the ongoing pandemic, remote meetings have become the norm and as a result, people have become more conscious of their home environments being visible to all participants via video calls. To avoid showing their children, pets or household messes during video calls, many individuals have opted for using virtual backgrounds. However, a recent study conducted by the British University of Durham and published in the scientific journal Plos One has shed light on the potential drawbacks of using virtual backgrounds in professional settings.
The study involved showing 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 showed that virtual backgrounds can have a significant impact on how people perceive each other during remote meetings.
Individuals with bookshelves or houseplants visible behind them were considered to be the most reliable and competent while smiling significantly improved their ratings. On the other hand, participants with less desirable backgrounds such as blurred living room views or arctic landscapes received lower ratings for both trustworthiness and competence. This highlights that using virtual backgrounds may not always be beneficial in professional settings as they can negatively influence how others perceive you during remote meetings.