When the sun sets earlier, fun-sized candy takes over supermarket shelves and horror movie marathons are on every other channel, it’s clear that Halloween is only days away. You probably won’t run into literal ghouls or goblins at the office this Halloween, but there are always a few characters to contend with during the workday.
Most of us try to portray the most professional versions of ourselves at work, but there are times when etiquette seems nowhere to be found. Conference calls tend to be a breeding ground for some scary employee habits, especially as more workers dial in outside of the physical office.
In honor of this season, we present a few of the different conference call “characters” you might run into this Halloween, and some recommendations for how meeting leaders can manage them during their next call.
1. The crazed commuter
From buses and subway cars to airports or the expressway, any mode of transportation serves as a dial-in spot for today’s on-the-go workers. Just one employee dialing in from their morning commute can add disruptive background noise to a meeting. Worse, a colleague conferencing in between tunnels, terminals or taxis increases the risk of a dropped connection – wasting valuable meeting minutes just to get back on track.
What to do about it: To minimize feedback, encourage commuting participants to mute their device until they join the conversation or ask a question. If the attendee needs to play an active role throughout the meeting, consider rescheduling until they’re in a quiet place with a more stable connection.
2. The preoccupied parent
The rise of telecommuting and flexible work arrangements undeniably offers employees more freedom to balance professional and personal responsibilities. But, sometimes, home life bleeds into work life, detracting from both. You’ve probably heard the occasional crying children or loud pet when on a conference call. According to our recent research, employees have been known to dial in from Disney World or the McDonald’s PlayPlace—not ideal areas for concentrating on both meetings and family.
What to do about it: In some cases, parents may be joining work calls during vacation or other PTO days. Companies should urge staff to stay disconnected from the office during designated personal time to reduce distractions on both sides. Using web conferencing or other virtual collaboration tools (beyond pure audio) can make it easier for at-home attendees to mute their chaotic setting and replay meeting recordings later to cover anything they missed. And web-based conferencing tools allow moderators to mute participants if they are oblivious to the extraneous noises around them.
3. The manic multi-tasker
With smartphones, tablets and endless apps at their disposal, today’s employees constantly strive to work faster and smarter. Unfortunately, this push for productivity can come at the expense of actively engaged staff. We found that more than 80% of employees admit to focusing on unrelated work items during a conference call; more than 60% admit to emailing during meetings. Too often, the impulse to respond to a message or knock out busy work during a long call trumps tuning in to the agenda at hand. This seemingly small behavior is contagious, quickly resulting in a group of half-listening call attendees.
What to do about it: Participants need a reason to stay engaged during a conference call. Using web and video conferencing, meeting leaders can incorporate more multimedia content and interaction into the standard status call. With visuals to look at or real-time polls to answer, attendees are more likely to stay focused on the conversation. Meeting leaders should also shy away from sending out mass invites. If the last fifteen minutes of a one-hour meeting are marketing-related, invite the marketing director for that portion only. Don’t be inclusive to a fault; inviting only the necessary stakeholders ensures that everyone’s time is respected.
What are some of the conference call characters you’ve encountered before? How did you or the meeting leader deal with them?