If you work remotely, you will likely be on more or more conference calls during the workday. Many believe that having your camera on during these calls will help foster healthier, more productive discussions. Research in the area is sparse but in my experience, turning cameras on doesn't make a conversation any more productive than it would be if they were off.
Remote conversations on camera, are similar to those you would have in person. You can watch more visual cues, though limited to the face and shoulder area, and maintain some form of eye contact. However, that alone won't make people want to engage more. Rather, the best way to have productive remote meetings comes down to the meeting's agenda and the attendees themselves.
Here are some common reasons companies require cameras to be on during video calls...and why most are dumb.
Forcing people to awkwardly smile into a camera for an hour does not make them want to engage. In fact, they will probably feel forced to participate and blurt out whatever comes to mind so they don't appear uninterested. This just results in wasted efforts and excess garbage for the person taking minutes to filter through.
In addition, being on camera constantly removes one of the greatest benefits of working from home...not worrying so much about your appearance. Women in particular benefit the most since they won't have to spend hours working on their hair and makeup. Requiring camera to be on introduces the possibility of Zoom fatigue into the workforce.
You can't force a relationship. This is about as fool-hearted as forcing employees to go on scavenger hunts or to escape rooms for "team-building". Some people don't like each other, and never will. This is perfectly fine as people don't need to be best friends to work together.
Making it mandatory for people to look at each or interact any more than the job requires just creates more animosity and angst among the workforce. Companies simply need to respect the space and personal time of each employee. Relationships will form naturally...or they won't, either way staring at one another on camera doesn't help the cause.
Tracking productivity in a remote workforce is important and sometimes tricky. But you can't gauge productivity by attendance alone. Output and quality of work should trump attendance 100% of the time.
There are a number of other more intelligent means measuring employee productivity. You can track number of tasks complete in the company CRM or monitor the ticket resolution time in the helpdesk software. Companies can even monitor the network traffic of each computer to ensure it isn't idle for too long.
Why do you need to put a face to a name? How a person looks should not impact the way you interact with them. Focus on accomplishing the goals you have set forth at work, not on the appearance of those who you work with.
Productivity and engagement during conference calls are increased when you have a clear agenda and the right people on the call. Don't invite people to just listen in, instead record the call and have the relevant parties listen to them at their leisure. Also, provide them with the timestamps they need to tune so they don't waste time listening through the whole meeting.
Be sure to circulate the meeting agenda a few days before the call. This is especially true if you need the participants to prepare something for the call.