Conference Call Confessions

According to a new survey by BT Conferencing, the flexible working opportunities of audio conferencing over the phone and the fact that our colleagues can’t see us, means that more than 68 per cent of us have dialled in to a conference call wearing our pyjamas, almost half of us wearing only our undies and 20 per cent just didn’t bother with clothes at all.

With BT Conferencing handling more than 15 million audio conferences, involving 60 million people in the UK every year, that’s an awful lot of people in their…pyjamas. Around the world there’s even more audio conferences managed by BT every year – 60 million audio conferences, linking a massive 145 million people.

The increasing number of conferences and people using BT’s services each working day – it’s grown by more than 31 and 19 per cent respectively over the last year – has led to conference calling in some bizarre locations.

The most popular place to call into a conference is actually relaxing in bed – maybe that explains why so many of us are wearing pyjamas. The smallest room in the house, our toilet or somebody else’s, seems to be the second most popular location.

But working flexibly doesn’t mean only working from home, many of us have called into an audio conference from a train or a car, but unusual locations seem to be popular. Holidays don’t stop us teleconferencing and calling in from the ski slopes tops the list and seems to be de rigueur these days. When we’re not calling in en piste, we’re calling in from the beach. Even the grim realities of life can’t stop us, with some people even dialling in from outside a funeral service.

Concentrating on a conference call just isn’t enough for some people though, they insist on multi-tasking. Top of the tasks is cooking, but changing nappies, feeding babies and shopping all have their adherents. Amongst the stranger stuff we’ve been doing while on a call is painting the ceiling, getting waxed, having a massage and getting our feet done at the chiropodist. Maybe the strangest is while captaining an under-fives rowing boat at Legoland.

You would think that these weird and wonderful locations and situations would lead to us being caught out by our colleagues. Many of us told BT Conferencing’s survey we haven’t been, but many more juggling their work-life balance have been disturbed by babies crying, cats meowing, dogs barking, toilets flushing or kettles boiling. And what about the MD of a large company, whose wife told him loudly to “shut his face”, or the person on a speakerphone who dozed off to sleep on a particularly boring conference call.

Aaron McCormack, CEO of BT Conferencing, said: “More people using conferencing is good news for all of us. It brings together any number of people from almost anywhere in the world. It cuts travelling time, costs and CO2 emissions and can assist us all to maintain a sensible work-life balance.”

In 2008, using conferencing helped BT to cut out more than 700,000 face to face meetings and 1.4 million journeys to save 53,000 tons of CO2.

McCormack continued: “And it’s clear from our survey that conferencing also lets you do things that would otherwise be impossible. You can have a meeting any time, wherever you are and wherever your colleagues, customers, or suppliers are. We’re not suggesting you let work take over your life. We believe Conferencing is a very valuable tool that can help you balance your work and home life responsibilities.”

Figures from industry analysts Ovum suggest that perhaps the days of joining a conference call wearing your PJs or even less are numbered. The use of high quality video conferencing where you can see the other participants as if they were in the same room is growing fast. Ovum expects 26 per cent of conferences will be held by video by 2012.

McCormack concluded: “As the world’s largest provider of videoconferencing services we will be in an ideal position to give an update on the habits of video users next year”.