Microsoft has rolled out a tweak to its Teams collaboration tool (opens in new tab) that will push meeting attendees off-screen if they have not activated their webcam (opens in new tab).
Previously, Microsoft Teams (opens in new tab) was configured to display a three-by-three grid of attendees made up of the nine most recent participants to speak. However, as per an announcement made via the Microsoft 365 Admin Center, the gallery layout will now display attendees with active video feeds only.
The change, which is presumably designed to more closely align virtual meetings with the in-person experience, will only affect larger video conferencing (opens in new tab) calls with more than nine participants. In smaller meetings, blank panels will still appear on-screen, representing microphone-only attendees.
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Microsoft Teams update
While the Microsoft Teams update was likely supposed to encourage users to interact face-to-face as they might have done prior to the pandemic, the tweak may actually have the opposite effect.
Although almost a year has passed since the transition to remote working (opens in new tab), many people are still uncomfortable with the concept of video calling, giving rise to the term “Zoom anxiety (opens in new tab)”.
Defined as “a feeling of panic when asked to jump on a video call,” Zoom anxiety afflicts almost three quarters of people, according to a recent report (opens in new tab) from presentation specialist Buffalo 87.
The main drivers of webcam-related anxiety, the report claims, include the inability to read body language effectively (67%), the feeling of not having been heard (56%), insufficient time to prepare physical appearance (41%) and concerns about the unprofessional nature of home office backgrounds.
Those that suffer from these kinds of concerns are more likely to want to avoid contributing to meetings, especially if asked to appear on video. And the new Microsoft Teams configuration will allow these users to fly under the radar more effectively, because out of sight and out of mind.
The new feature has also come under fire for the way it was rolled out, without admins receiving prior notification. Microsoft has since apologized for failing to alert administrators to the change.
“We strive to ensure that we are providing notification of changes proactively and we apologize that we did not make our commitment with this change,” said the firm.
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Via OnMSFT (opens in new tab)