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06 December 2023

Executives dress 'casually' for conference calls: study

Audio conferences grew more than 31 per cent over the past year due to increasing globalisation. (SUPPLIED)

By Keith J Fernandez

The vast majority of business executives are unlikely to suit up for a conference call, according to a new survey.

A whopping 68 per cent of people using BT Conferencing facilities in the United Kingdom said they dialled in to conference calls wearing pyjamas, while almost half only wear underwear.

And another 20 per cent just did not bother with clothes at all, in what is perhaps the ultimate benefit of the flexible workplace.

As globalisation means we are all talking to each other from different points on the planet – and different time zones – more and more people need to 'con-call' now.

BT Conferencing said it handles 60 million audio conferences, linking a massive 145 million people around the world – which is an awful lot of people in their pyjamas.

In Dubai, however, reactions were mixed. Two managers Emirates Business spoke to agreed they were casually dressed during audio conferences – but refused to be quoted, while Sharon Garrett, Managing Director, Hot Off The Press PR, insisted she was always professionally attired. "I would never call in pyjamas," she said. "Because in my work mode, I'm in my work clothes, even if I'm working from home. I try not to take my business to my bed."

Nevertheless, the increasing number of conferences and people involved – BT says audio conferences grew more than 31 per cent over the past year – has led to calling from some bizarre locations. Most popular is while relaxing in bed – maybe that explains the pyjamas.

"Absolutely, done that," says Dubai-based Geraldine Wilcock, a mid-level manager in her thirties. "I did that a lot in Singapore where I lived before moving to the UAE – I'd have to wake up a lot in the middle of the night to talk to clients in the United States. They didn't seem to understand we were in a different time zone."

Other places people called from were toilets, trains and cars, more unusual spots such as ski slopes, the beach, and in one grim case, from outside a funeral service.

With audio calls offering the opportunity to multi-task, cooking is topmost on the list of activities people engage in while on a call. And changing nappies, feeding babies and shopping all have their adherents. "I get disturbed by children all the time," admits Wilcock. "I usually have Barney's on the telly to keep the children quiet – not very good, I know," she adds guiltily.

More unusual activities are painting the ceiling, getting waxed or having a massage.

And it seems if people are caught out, it is through interruptions – babies' cries, animal noises, toilets flushing and kettles boiling. The wife of one MD of a large company was reportedly told loudly to "shut his face".

But figures from industry analyst Ovum suggest we have to shape up as the use of high-quality video conferencing grows. Ovum expects 26 per cent of conferences will be held by video by 2012.


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