It seems so intuitive. Everyone knows this right? Business 101? Just because an employee is doing something, doesn’t mean they are accomplishing something of value for the organization. Or even accomplishing anything at all. And yet it still seems relatively unacknowledged, or at least often unaddressed by employers, that just the act of being in a meeting, sitting at a desk, or dialing into a conference call does not equate with employees being productive for the organization.
If you aren’t one of the 10 million individuals who have already viewed this humorous YouTube take on a “Conference Call in Real Life”, you may want to take an unproductive but enjoyable moment to check it out now.
While the ability to multi-task has generally been considered a positive skill, the following HBR article shines a light on the reality that the type of multi-tasking taking place while individuals are engaged in conference calls (ie. sending each other e-mails or checking social media sites), is not generally conducive to proper engagement in the call.
Which brings into question the true value of this mode of teamwork/meeting. Can conference calls be productive?
Absolutely, but ensuring that the call has a proper purpose, and that everyone on the call needs to be on the call is a must. No one likes to be cc’d on a dozen e-mails that don’t relate to them. The same holds true when individuals are asked to sit in on conference calls for which they have little to offer or gain. In addition, just like in-person meetings, calls should be scheduled only when relevant information needs to be shared or discussed, not just for the sake of it. As well, conference calls should be kept as brief and focused as possible to maximize engagement. Not to worry telecommuters and vacationers, the location of the caller is not nearly as important as what else they are doing while on the call. Someone sitting on a beach may be fully engaged in the conversation and providing much greater value to the call than an individual who is sitting at a desk perusing craigslist for a second-hand bookshelf, or e-mailing another colleague. The simplest fix suggested in this article is to lose the mute button option, thus ensuring that people know they are actually part of the call and not free to carry on with other business and distractions while they listen.