Speaking volumes: Frustrations with conferencing tech is an opportunity for manufacturers

Picture a moment that perfectly depicts the struggles of working from home, and you’re likely to call to mind something personal – your dog barking during an important virtual meeting, forgetting you’re on camera and rolling your eyes at a colleague’s comment, or maybe it was your kid loudly announcing they’re hungry mid-way through a client call.

You might have even seen the super viral “BBC Dad” clip in which expert Robert Kelly, mid-interview from his home office, is interrupted by his four-year old daughter who suddenly swaggers into shot. She’s shortly followed by another baby in a walker, and then their panicked Mother who dashes in to extract the children from the live global interview with a major broadcast outlet that they’ve casually gate-crashed.

Just three years later in 2020, the struggles of BBC Dad felt even more relatable as the Covid-19 pandemic sent office workers home to work. Families, pets, and flatmates co-existed full-time, leading to blurred boundaries between work and home life. Conference calls were plagued with distractions as home-schooling children, barking dogs and delivery men entered the picture time and time again. Amid the pandemic, these interruptions mostly felt like light relief during a period of widespread tension and health anxiety.

Fast forward to 2023 and working from home has become our new reality, extending well past the local lockdowns. In May 2023, Statista reported that 39% of Great Britain’s workforce had worked remotely in the seven days prior to the report. Conference calls have become part of employees’ daily working lives. Unfortunately, our recent research suggests that call frustrations are still proving a major barrier to productivity.

Hear me out

We recently surveyed 2,000 US and UK office workers and found that over three quarters (78%) regularly experience problems with their conferencing set up. In fact, less than half (41%) are happy with the available software and hardware. Over one quarter (28%) have seen pets or children in the background of meetings, but these distractions fall on the “minor” side of conference call issues. There are others which are harder to brush off.

For example, many of our respondents reported difficulties managing the logistics of joining or participating in a conference call, whether due to complex security settings or a lack of familiarity with the technology. Just over one fifth (21%) expressed frustrations with unexpected security updates when trying to enter meeting rooms, or the inability to share their screen.

These issues could be dismissed as small inconveniences in an employee’s day, but they become a real problem when coupled with more serious call frustrations. Many of our respondents reported issues with call audio, with over half (51%) experiencing poor sound quality in the last 12 months. For a quarter of employees, the problem is even more severe with issues occurring at least once a week, and more than a fifth (22%) reported daily issues.

“You’re not on mute…”

Our data reveals that workers’ logistical challenges don’t end there. We’ve heard reports of staff joining calls late through no fault of their own, missing key information shared on a call, and even dropping out of meetings entirely. 21% of employees we surveyed have spoken out of turn, believing they were on mute when they weren’t. 12% have accidentally shared sensitive company information due to issues with conferencing technology, and 14% were reprimanded as a result.

These problems take on a cumulative effect when applied together, with the impact of conference call woes proving much more than the sum of its parts. These frustrations and failures have become detrimental to a company’s operations and caused workers to feel unprofessional.

Time to listen up

In the UK, the first work from home orders were issued in March 2020. Three years on, and office workers are still grappling with conference call technology that’s less than adequate. With remote and hybrid work on the rise, conference calls have become a crucial element of a company’s way to communicate with employees. It’s time for businesses to take these grievances seriously.

Remote working is here to stay, and it presents manufacturers with an opportunity that they would be foolish to ignore. By catering to the demands of users, and offering superior conferencing products, they have a unique opportunity to secure their market position for years to come. The bottom line is that optimising the audio quality within their products will not only benefit their own business; it will also furnish companies and employees with the tools they need to thrive in today’s workplace. But they mustn’t delay – the time to act is now.

To learn more about what today’s workers want from conferencing technology and understand how manufacturers can meet those needs and expectations, download the Remote Possibilities report here.