WORKPLACE / AUG. 29, 2014
version 3, draft 3

What Else do You do Whilst on a Conference Call?

Conference Call
istock

With the amount of flexible working on the (gradual) increase, so too the amount of time spent in virtual meetings is on the rise.  The technology has long existed to allow people to dial in to meetings from wherever they may be, but just how effective are these coming togethers? 

A recent survey from conference call company Intercall suggests that our level of attention when on a conference call is patchy to say the least.  It highlights the vast range of things many people get up to whilst on the conference call that have nothing at all to do with that call.  Some key findings include:

  • 60% admitted to doing some kind of other work during the conference call
  • Over 50% were eating something
  • Just under 50% owned up to going to the toilet!
  • 27% admitted to having fallen asleep at least once during a meeting
  • Around 20% are doing some online shopping
  • Just under 10% admitted to working out during a call
  • Whilst 6% are actually on two calls at once

Staggering isn’t it? 

I mean how can you exercise whilst on a conference call?  It emerged that a major factor behind our mental wanderings was that we are increasingly using our mobile devices to dial in to conference calls, and these mobile devices afford us an array of alternative ways to spend our time than simply concentrating on the task at hand.

The mute function was also much more popular when we dial in using our mobiles rather than a landline telephone.  According to InterCall, something like 80% of us are more likely to hit the mute button when we call in on our mobile.

It begs the question however, of whether people are similarly tuned out during physical meetings, yet they don’t have the opportunity to engage in other things. It also underlines the importance of working collectively in much more efficient and effective ways. 

This matters because of all of the new wave of communication tools in place in our offices, a Deloitte study recently found that video conferencing was far and away the most prevalent.  So what is responsible for all of this?

Intercall suggests that a major part of the problem is simply too many meetings, with employees often confusing activity with productivity.  The company also suggests that the immediate nature of our technology driven workplace makes the temptation to reply to incoming mail/instant messages and so on, a very real one.

So how can this be improved?

Well, one obvious option is to lift the veil of secrecy that protects callers on an audio call.  By showing people on the screen, then it certainly makes it harder for them to doss about doing who knows what.  It also makes the whole experience rather more engaging as you can solicit the various non-verbal communication cues that are so important.

How else do you think conference calls could be improved to become more efficient? Please comment.

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