by Tom Kaneshige

13 Things to Do on a Conference Call

Sep 10, 20146 mins

Chances are good you've become adept at working remotely and taking part in conferences from your home or mobile offices. Chances are even better you've discovered creative ways to multitask. However, if you need some inspiration, check out these 13 real-world examples of workers who live on the edge during conference calls.

Jumping on a conference call has become so common in today’s blended work-life-mobile lifestyle that it has become a cliche. We’ve become experts at dialing in remotely and being sneaky about our whereabouts and activities. In a recent InterCall survey, four out of five respondents admitted to working on unrelated items while on a conference call. Of course, we’re all claiming to be the one out of five doing it right.

‘Heading’ to the Office

“I’ll take this conference call in my office,” says the remote worker speaking to himself. The office, of course, isn’t much larger than a cubicle and has a sink, toilet and perhaps a shower. Yes, it’s the bathroom. According to the InterCall survey, the number one place besides an office people take conference calls is the restroom. Just remember to hit the mute button before flushing, please.

Did Someone Just Yell ‘Fore’?

ESPN recently ran a video story about a sales guy with a golf addiction that ultimately cost him his job, which got us wondering: How many conference calls did he take on the course? If you’re a golf fanatic who can’t pass up a tee time, you better hope your company doesn’t adopt video conferencing. You won’t be able to hide your collared golf shirt, Pebble Beach cap and lush, green fairways in the background.

Bueller? Bueller?

It’s a surprise roll call on a conference call, but are you there? In the InterCall survey, two out of five respondents said they’ve secretly dropped off the call and, later, pretended to have participated the entire time. If your boss asks you a question, and you’re not there to respond, well, chances are the fallout won’t be pleasant. Ferris Bueller might be able to get away with it, but you’ll get busted.

Chasing the Dog

Ever been on a conference call at home when your dog suddenly starts barking? You just can’t hit the mute button fast enough. One respondent in the InterCall survey had the absolute dog-owner nightmare: The dog got out, and the person had to chase the four-legged runaway down the street. We can only imagine conference call attendees wondering, Why does Sarah sound so winded?

Playing Video Games

When Call of Duty calls, it’s go time. Never mind you’re on a conference call for work. One out of four InterCall survey respondents admitted to playing video games while on a conference call. With these numbers, you stand a good chance bumping into co-workers in the virtual world who are supposed to be on the call, too.

Red Lights in the Rearview

Today’s busy executives are constantly on the move, which is why many dial into conference calls over their mobile phones. On Silicon Valley’s highways and city streets, you’ll see them driving while holding a phone to their ear, too lazy to enable the hands-free feature. Sure, it’s illegal, but this doesn’t stop them — that is, until they see red-and-blue lights in the rearview mirror.

Is That a Tan Line?

When asked about the oddest place they’ve ever taken a conference call, one respondent in the InterCall survey gave the best answer: a day at the beach. Sun, sand an ocean breeze, the beach is our favorite place to play hooky as long as we don’t get caught, even on a videoconferencing call. “I kept my tablet up so that my bikini didn’t show,” says the respondent. Then again, co-workers were no doubt staring inquisitively at the nice tan and strawberry margarita.

Grabbing Grub

We’ve all grabbed a bite to eat while on a conference call. Some companies even encourage it with “lunch bag” conference calls. Still, it’s a little embarrassing when your manager asks you a question after you’ve just taken a big bite of a sandwich. Speaking of food, many remote workers actually cook while on a conference call, too. More than half of respondents in the InterCall survey say they have eaten or made food during a conference call.

Down at the Racetrack

Betting on the ponies at the racetrack, the crowd roaring as they come down the stretch, their thunderous hooves beating the ground isn’t a good time to be on a work conference call. But that’s what one respondent in the InterCall survey says he did. He would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for that meddling video-and-sound capturing conferencing technology. (OK, we’re not sure if he got caught or not.)

Hey Buddy, You’re Snoring!

A whopping 27 percent of respondents in the InterCall survey admitted to falling asleep during a conference call. We’re not talking about the 8 a.m. Eastern Time conference call for remote workers on the West Coast, either. This kind of beauty sleep can get you fired, not to mention become the butt of jokes for years to come after co-workers hear you snoring over the phone. Wake up!

Checking Facebook, Texting Friends

Let’s face it, conference calls can get extremely dull. So what do bored remote workers do? They check Facebook, send out Tweets, text their buddies, read personal email — anything to keep them from falling asleep, which, as discussed in the previous slide, is easy enough to do. Heck, lots of people do these things not only on conference calls but in actual meetings while sitting around the conference room table.

Time to Go Shopping

Apparently, a conference call is a great time to get some shopping done. One out of five respondents in the InterCall survey said they’ve shopped online during a conference call. It’s not just online shopping, either. One respondent admitted to being on a conference call while in the fitting room trying on clothes. The silver lining is that a fitting room has lots of privacy. But do we really want to imagine our remote co-workers without any clothes?

Doing It Right

Here’s a novel idea: take notes and participate in the discussion. A conference call is a good way to keep everyone in the loop. It lets remote workers share their ideas and feel like part of a team even though they may be thousands of miles away. Most of all, conference calls done right encourage remote work policies. If you’re a remote worker, it benefits you to make conference calls a success.