Today conferencing technology is synonymous with large businesses and considered a standard accessory for multinational (or at least multi-office) organizations. This is a misconception, however, and obscures the fact that small businesses—23 million in the U.S. alone—have as much to gain from conferencing tools as corporations.
As the world’s largest provider of conferencing services for organizations of all sizes, InterCall set out to explore the impact of conferencing technology on small businesses (250 or fewer employees). We surveyed more than 200 U.S. small business owners to measure their use of conferencing technology and how it affects their productivity and personal lives.
While we confirmed that conferencing is as prevalent on Main Street as it is on Wall Street—and has the potential to alleviate a number of small business owners’ daily obstacles—certain owners manage to reap more benefits of the technology than others. Here are our findings:
Millennial Small Business Owners Reap More Benefits from Conferencing Tools
70 percent of small business owners claim to use audio and/or video conferencing technology, debunking the myth that conferencing is a big business-only club.
Breaking down respondents by age, younger small business owners (between 18 and 29 years old) are significantly more likely to use conferencing technology. 72 percent of this age group has adopted conferencing and collaboration tools, compared to 53% of owners between 45 and 60.
Turns out, this adoption gap has a notable trickle-down effect. Older small business owners are six times more likely to work 50+ hour weeks than their younger counterparts (24% v. 4%).
The productivity differences don’t stop there. Younger small business owners also:
- Travel less. 28 percent of younger small business owners travel more than 10 hours per month for business, compared to 44% of older owners.
- Spend less. 21 percent of 18-29 year old business owners spend more than $100 per month on professional travel, versus 40% of their elders.
Of any age group, young small business owners are most likely to take calls outside of work hours—but this isn’t necessarily a negative.
Technology offers this growing crop of young business owners more flexibility in how and when they work; they’re not shackled to a 9-to-5 standard. 97 percent of 18-29 year old small business owners still work full-time, between 35 and 50 hours per week, while enjoying a healthy work-life balance. Younger respondents are nearly twice as likely to feel that they have an optimal work-life balance than 45-60 year olds (56% v. 30%).
Most Owners Aren’t Maximizing Their Conferencing Investments
Although the majority of small business owners use conferencing tools, our findings hint that they may not be using them to the fullest potential.
For starters, 39% of small business owners spend more than 10 hours and $100 per month on business travel. The time and expense of regularly shuttling around to meetings and events adds up fast—it’s unsurprising that so few owners (32%) enjoy a healthy work-life balance.
On the flip side, small business owners believe that conferencing technology would combat some of these challenges. Thirty percent of owners feel that conferencing technology would let them get more done during the day, and 36% believe it would allow them to work from home more.
There’s clearly a disconnect. Given the vast amount of small business conferencing users, it’s surprising how many continue to spend valuable time and money unproductively.
Female Small Business Owners More Likely to Use Conferencing
The survey findings also revealed nuances between male and female small business owners.
Female owners are more likely to use conferencing technology compared to male owners (68% v. 60%). Neither gender overwhelmingly feels that they’ve achieved an optimal work-life balance, but male business owners are slightly more content with their situation (40% v. 37%). Male owners are also more likely to feel that conferencing technology would improve their work-life balance (19% v. 13%).
These variations suggest that male owners may be slightly more reluctant to stray from traditional business notions (e.g., closing a deal with a handshake, developing face-to-face rapport), and less likely to prioritize their work-life balance than female owners.
What Would Small Business Owners Do with More Free Time?
Digging further into the state of small business owners’ work-life balance, we wanted to know how respondents would spend hypothetical free time. Most small business owners are quick to devote spare hours to family (68%), friends (62%) and hobbies (62%). Comparing answers across demographics, however, revealed some more interesting nuances.
Young Small Business Owners More Content to Fill Free Time by “Doing Nothing”
Small business owners between 18 and 29 are more than twice as likely to spend free time “doing nothing” compared to 45-60 year old owners (55% v. 24%). This is understandable considering that younger owners may not have the same familial responsibilities as older owners; on the other hand, there could be a touch of truth to the Lazy Millennial stereotype.
Small Business Owners with Kids Twice as Likely to Spend Free Time at Golf Course
Whether or not business owners have children also impacts their free time plans. Respondents with children are almost twice as likely to fill up free time on the golf course (19% v. 10%). Non-parent business owners are almost three times more likely to spend free time dating (11% v. 4%), and more than twice as likely to start planning another business venture (13% v. 6%).
Male and female small business owners offered divergent, somewhat unexpected, definitions of well-spent free time. For example:
- Male respondents are more likely to spend free time with family (78% v. 61%)
- Female respondents are almost twice as likely to spend time cleaning (57% v. 30%)
- Female respondents are more likely to spend time cooking (53% v. 22%)
- Female respondents are more likely to start another business (11% v. 7%)
Ultimately, we confirmed that small businesses aren’t new to the conferencing technology game. Still, plenty of owners are behind the learning curve in terms of using these tools to run more agile companies and improve their personal work-life balance.
But younger generations of owners are forging a new path, using technology to lift the limitations on when and where work happens. For these incoming business leaders, “going to work” is not defined by a place, but rather a mindset. By setting this new precedent now, small business owners will likely enjoy even more freedom and flexibility in the future.
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