How much time do we waste on conference calls?

We seem to spend most of our working lives on conference calls, but are they as productive -- or as secure -- as we are led to believe?
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

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In 2016, people spent 163 billion minutes on conference calls in the United States and the United Kingdom alone. But are these calls actually worth having, or are they a waste of time?

Collaboration provider LoopUp commissioned Sapio Research to discover the costs and productivity impact on poor business call practices.

It surveyed 1000 business professionals in the US and the UK to discover what the issues are and the impact to the enterprise.

The Loopup survey showed that the majority of business people rely on dial in for joining conference calls using numbers and codes from phones instead of using headsets and conferencing software.

Only 29 percent of web conferencing calls use a web conferencing component.

Over 70 percent of calls are taken from fixed line phones and 22 percent of people attend conference calls using their mobile device.

How much time do we waste on conference calls ZDNet

Business people waste an average of 15 minutes per conference call simply getting started or dealing with distractions throughout the call.

The survey showed that time wasted on a typical conference call included struggling to get the meeting started, overcoming challenges with conferencing technology, and dealing with avoidable distractions.

Over 63 percent of people reported that they wait for over five minutes for others to get set up on web conferencing tools before the meeting can start properly.

The survey also highlighted security issues with 70 percent of people saying that it is normal to discuss confidential information on conference calls.

Worryingly over half of respondents reported that it is normal not to know who else is on the call. Dial-in conferencing introduces a lack of visibility and control over meetings, as users cannot see who has joined the call or take action to remove unwanted guests.

Even worse, two out of three of us use the same passcodes to dial into calls for up to a year or more.

How much time do we waste on conference calls ZDNet

Although 88 percent believe that video conferencing has a place in certain situations such as interviews and training, only 53 percent thought it was useful for day-to-day meetings. only 12 percent feel as comfortable on video calls as they do on audio calls.

This wasted time has a high cost for businesses -- over £26 billion ($34 billion) a year. This cost has increased by 46 percent since 2015 (up from $16 billion).

Steve Flavell, co-CEO and co-founder of LoopUp said: "What might be the biggest "anti-trend" in the space is that, regardless of the features and feature sets, people keep on dialling into meetings. And the biggest reason behind this is risk aversion.

"With a dial-in option (regardless of the experience) you're playing it safe: everyone can dial in and punch a code in, and everyone can get on the call. This ultimately leads to why the market won't move on."

Although all the large conferencing vendors have solutions that are incredibly feature-rich, the complexity of the solutions, and myriad ways connecting to a conference means that most of us still fall back to something we feel most comfortable using: phone and email.

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