A tough call: Why are workers so frustrated by conferencing technology?

It’s not so long ago that, for most of us, remote working was a daily exercise in improvisation. People used whatever they had available to make the best of their situation, without a guarantee of the peripherals that we might now take for granted, like webcams, microphones, and speakerphones.

A few years on, remote collaboration has been professionalised. With established providers like Zoom and Teams now hosting an incredible volume of conversation – in late 2022 Zoom confirmed that its platform hosted 300,000,000 daily meeting participants every single day – remote collaboration is a giant industry unto itself.

With that reform comes expectations. Without the hardship of the pandemic justifying rough-and-ready solutions, flexible workers anticipate a higher standard of audio and visual communication than in 2020.

That’s not, however, always reflected in the tools that they have at their disposal. And when that’s the case, insufficient products can seriously impact the mentality and productivity of the remote workforce.

We carried out a recent study of 2,000 workers in the US and UK in order to quantify these challenges and better understand why workers are so frustrated by existing conferencing technology.

Lending an ear

Firstly, it’s important to contextualise just how much time and energy the average worker invests into remote collaboration. 82% of those surveyed by XMOS are involved in regular audio or video calls; 15% will participate in upwards of 10 calls per week.

That makes audio and visual quality a fundamental requirement of any solution they employ. Despite this, more than 2 in 5 (41%) workers are actively unhappy with the devices and tools that they use; 48% have a specific issue that they face more than once a week.

That’s because their conferencing products don’t deliver on those key principles of sound and video. For example, a majority complain of distracting background noise (52%), suggesting a lack of noise suppression. More than half also simply complained of poor sound quality (51%), indicating that either a microphone or a speaker – or both – aren’t up to par.

Failing to deliver on basic expectations is where frustration starts to creep in. Nearly half of respondents believe that having to repeat themselves makes them look unprofessional (48%); for 13%, they’ve been so frustrated with the experience that they’ve actually broken something in anger!

Remote possibilities

There’s a twofold opportunity for manufacturers here, then. Delivering a serious improvement in audio and visual quality doesn’t just bring a better product to market. It has the potential, at its best, to transform the job satisfaction and performance of a frustrated remote worker.

At XMOS, we have developed a solution to the challenges of remote collaboration. The XVF3800, is a 4-mic voice processor specifically designed to bring conferencing solutions to market.

Designed to enable certification for Teams and Zoom for enterprise and consumer voice conferencing platforms, the four-microphone processor delivers both noise suppression and adaptive beamformers. These isolate and distinguish a speaker’s voice amidst background noise, directly addressing frustrations with audio quality and clarity.

Purpose-built solutions like this underpin the optimal audio quality that the remote workforce is so desperate for. To read more about our research, and understand how conferencing solution designers can support remote and hybrid working in such a fast evolving sector, download our Remote Possibilities research report here.

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