Zoom Background Study

I continue to be surprised by the lesser-spotted curated zoomscape.

I blogged on findings of a survey recently, suggesting that two-in-three companies have created a specific space in the office for video calling. My experience differs.

Even if such a place exists, the thought put into it seems misaligned to the task in hand.

One giveaway is with backdrops.

My preferred spot utilises a wall I can draw on. Though I more commonly end up using what got typically labelled the 'hostage video' look, of plain wall.

In the field, whether in-office or ᴡꜰʜ, the blurred background remains a staple. As does the virtual background, nowadays tending towards a corporate logo albeit sadly with little design literacy or impact thought gone into its presentation.

Both options protect the privacy of yourself and others in either setting. As well as remove source of potential distraction.

Just as many though, are happy to sport a work or home environment as-is.

I see countless corners of cubicled floors, coats hanging on the back of spare room doors and even windows glimpsing partly sky.

So it was with intrigue I learned about Durham University's study "of more than 160 individuals" into 'defining what makes the best virtual first impression'.

Here's a snippet from their abstract;

The research found a background of books and/or plants significantly contributed towards creating a trusting and competent first impression.
While on the contrary, comedic or living room backgrounds consistently scored the lowest.
The study also discovered that gender is having an impact, with women consistently appearing more trustworthy and competent than men regardless of the kind of virtual background.
Additionally, a smiley, happy demeanour was found to be an extra ingredient that can help towards creating a trusting and competent impression.

Their chosen six backgrounds did not include anything you might deem corporate. No inner workings of an office, nor brand identity on display for instance. So data emanates from backdrops featuring only; plants, bookcase, home living room, home living room blurred, blank wall & (virtual) novelty.

Even so, across the various test scenarios, you can say plants and books did well, closely followed by blank wall, with the others following, novelty bringing up the rear.

Here's link from one graph by way of sample.


It is a shame that workplace-orientation was omitted. Whether in situ among colleagues, designated booth or purposely curated setting where you reside. Still, if you're pretty much Remote or videolinking most the time, then it might shed some light.

For my personal feeling is that a blank wall behind you is fine these days. Even there I can stick large/flipchart sheets behind me as apt.

You become distinctive in part by how you position yourself in your space, the props you use and the gestures and movements you deploy.

And if you accept this latest psychologist research then - so long as you smile - you're all good to go that way. And more often than not, start to truly get what you want from virtual meetings.

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