First impressions matter, even virtual ones – study reveals the winning formula for a video call backdrop

Even virtual first impressions last, so it pays to make them count

Home office desk setup, patterned wallpaper, velvet desk chair and decorated shelving
(Image credit: Future PLC/Anna Stathaki)

A recent study found that people who have plants or bookcases as their backdrop on video calls tend to make better first impressions in online meetings than those without – and now, it's got us rethinking our own WFH video call setups.

Following the pandemic that struck workplaces at its core in 2020, more and more have started to adopt either a hybrid working model, or have just stuck to purely working from home, whether that be in a dedicated home office or just at your kitchen table.

Home office desk setup, patterned wallpaper, velvet desk chair and decorated shelving

(Image credit: Future PLC/Kasia Fiszer)

However, being at home doesn't negate the responsibility of showing up to your meetings, albeit online. And as it turns out, your backdrop can make all the difference in how somebody forms a first impression on you – which means we should probably elevate our home office wall decor ideas – and soon.

'With more of us working from home and regularly on video calls, our backdrops have become another area to decorate and perfect,' starts Jonathon Clark, creative director at Shelved. 'Rather than displaying plain walls or a chaotic background with our daily items in plain sight, people are now striving to create a space that is worth flaunting.'

Home office desk setup with wired grid decor displaying photos and artwork

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Research reveals video call backdrops of plants and bookcases make the best first impression

A recent study conducted at Durham University asked more than 160 undergraduate students to evaluate a selection of images of people against different virtual backgrounds, all with a variety of facial expressions.

The backgrounds consisted of a living room, a blurred living room, a bookcase, houseplants on a cupboard, a blank wall, and a walrus in front of an iceberg. And yep, you guessed it, those with backgrounds of the bookcase or houseplants made the best impression in a video call context, appearing more professional and trustworthy.

Neutral l home office with wooden desk and decorated with pin board decor, plants, and lighting

(Image credit: Future PLC/Anna Stathaki)

And really, it's interesting that this is the case, and it makes us wonder: why?

'There are multiple reasons this could be the case, such as a person caring about their home and their surroundings as well as the ability to maintain and care for their plants,' starts Kate Duckworth, interior and trends expert at Swift Direct Blinds

'Houseplants are also linked to positive moods and wellbeing, therefore that association could see others appreciate and recognise this from seeing them in the background. Bookcases are also a great reflection of a person, showing whether they are organised, creative or well-read – it is a great way of gathering an idea of someone's interests or general personality.'

Light blue home office, fifties wooden desk, shelving unit and white plastic chair, white wire light shade, retro circle print pug, sunburst wall clock, framed print on wall, wooden vases

(Image credit: Future PLC)

'Bookshelves have come a long way from being used as a functional book storage unit, and instead are tools of creativity and interest,' adds Jonathon at Shelved.

'From an ornament you treasure from your travels, your favourite tropical plant, or a place to showcase your impressive vinyl collection, they can spark up great conversation and complete a scheme by providing a beautiful backdrop to any room.'

In fact, a handful of the Ideal Home team have already adopted these styles of video call backdrops. Our Editor in Chief, Heather Young, even said, 'My handy husband built these shelves in our office, and I have specifically positioned my desk so that they're my backdrop for video calls.'

Home office with grey painted bookshelves furnished with decorative items

(Image credit: Future/Heather Young)

We don't know about you but it sounds like the perfect time to brush up on getting our bookshelves looking up to scratch, especially if a gauge of our trustworthiness and professionalism is on the line. Plus, with handy home decor discounts it's achievable without spending a lot.

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is Ideal Home’s Junior Writer. She’s always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham in 2022. Previously, she was an Intern Editor for ArchDaily. Now focused on news stories, Jullia can be found down the TikTok and Pinterest rabbit hole scrolling through any new and upcoming trends, hacks, and home inspiration.