Have started writing this piece during one of the ‘routine’ conference calls. It proves the point none the less.

As part of global workforce,conferencing has become prime collaboration option among teams spread out across geographies.

As with any other technologies, Organisations over-did its use. Now a days, employees spend a lot of time in the conference calls as part of their work day.

Question is – Is this best use of their time ?

HBR published article aptly titled ‘ What People Are Really Doing When They’re on a Conference Call’  in 2014 based on study done by Intercall – world’s largest conference call company used by 85% of Fortune 500 companies.

Here are some interesting facts.

Almost 82% admitted working on something else unrelated to the topic being discussed in the conference. That sounds familiar 🙂

Here is what people do while being on conference calls (Source Intercall).

Mobile Conferencing Multitasking

Even some people admitted to dropping off the call without announcing it or fallen asleep mid-way.

Conference Call Bad Habbits

With more people dialling in from mobile in those conference calls, people have taken it to the next level – literally.

Where is the strangest place you’ve taken a conference call?

  • A truck stop bathroom
  • McDonald’s Playplace
  • The closet of a friend’s house during a party
  • The beach … it was a video call so I kept my tablet up so that my bikini didn’t show
  • Behind a church during a wedding rehearsal
  • The racetrack
  • Chasing my dog down the street because she got out of the house
  • Disney World Fitting room while trying on clothes

All these adventures (if you call it) are enabled by magical MUTE button. Almost 80% respondents admitted muting themselves during the calls. That is also key reason to dial in via mobiles.

Such behaviour is contributed by two key reasons.

  1. Immediacy of response eased by technology advancements. Call it email notifications  or pop-up in your chat window by messaging software. We all have been conditioned to ‘fast response’ and often confuse between ‘Activity’ and ‘Productivity’. So, multi-tasking during calls has become the norm.
  2. People have just too many calls during their workday. So, obviously you do not expect a person be at his best in each one of them. Also, quality of meetings (in terms of engagement, agenda and action) has eroded significantly. So, people are not as engaged as they would be in face-to-face meetings. Being remote also allows them to get away each time and thus reinforces such behaviour.

“Being a participant in an unnecessary meeting is not productive and it might not even be active, but it looks good on a time sheet,” Bellmar (InterCall’s Executive Vice President of Conferencing and Collaboration) points out .”People continue to get ‘real work’ done while passively attending a meeting and think they are effectively performing their tasks.”

Argenti (Tuck Business School Professor) agrees. “It’s just like cc’ing people on email,” he says. “The facilitator needs to think hard about who needs to be there.”

I think, that is really a good point to start.