Business man on the phone looking bored and fed up

What people are really doing during conference calls

Elizabeth Bromstein|

Everyone dreads the conference call. From the moment you join – especially when it’s just you and someone you’ve never met – to the introductions…

“Hi. This is Bill…”

“Hi Bill. This is Mary…”

To the weird small talk about the weather to the uncomfortable laughter to the talking over each other…

“Sorry. Go ahead…”

“No, I’m sorry, you go ahead…”

To the awkward pauses…and finally the stilted goodbyes.

Worst telecommunications invention ever.

Well, next time you’re participating in one of these ridiculous meetings, consider this: there’s a fair to middling chance that someone on the other end of the line is using the toilet. So, that could account for the awkward silence.

In a new survey conducted by conference call service provider InterCall, nearly half (47%) of respondents admitted to have used the restroom during such a call.

More than 500 full-time workers participated in the study. Other things they admitted to doing included doing other work, eating or making food, texting, checking social media, shopping, and gaming.


Thirty-nine per cent of respondents admitted to sneaking out of a call, 27% admitted to falling asleep, and 5% admitted to having someone else take their place.

Asked for the strangest locations from which they had taken a conference call, respondents listed the following places:

    A truck stop bathroom

    McDonald’s Playplace

    The closet of a friend’s house during a party

    The beach

    Behind a church during a wedding rehearsal

    The racetrack

    Chasing my dog down the street because she got out of the house

    Disney World

    Fitting room while trying on clothes


If, in some cases, we’re not making the best use of our time, Rob Bellmar, InterCall’s Executive Vice President of Conferencing and Collaboration, says something we might have heard once or twice before. “Part of the problem comes from too many meetings,” he tells the Harvard Business Review. “This leads people to confuse activity with productivity.”

So, if you’re trying on clothes, playing Minecraft and taking a call at the same time, there’s no doubt you’re busy, but are you productive? Possibly not.

Really, most of the other activities people listed are pretty inoffensive. I’m a big multitasker myself and see no reason why you can’t surf Facebook, respond to some emails, and take a meeting at the same time. But I’m going to go ahead and come down firmly against going to the bathroom during that time. Not only is it gross and disrespectful. It’s risky. Haven’t you seen The Naked Gun? Be careful. Things could go very wrong if you hit the wrong button.


Remember this funny video about a conference call in real life?

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  • Susie Matts

    I completely agree with your articles. Checking mails, shopping online, playing games, texting and cooking food are the work which people do during Conference Call.