Phoning It In From Down the Hall

Remote workers are very commonplace these days.

In fact, some companies operate entirely with virtual teams.

Technology has allowed us to collaborate in new ways from conference calls, to video chat, to online webinars.

It is not uncommon to have a meeting with participants in 3 or 4 timezones.

But, what happens when this is taken too far?

I was recently in a meeting where participants in the same building were all called into a conference line separately.

Was this team really engaged if they couldn’t make the effort to get together in person?

Calling It In

Just the other day I was on a conference call when someone who is normally in the room said something on the conference line.

My ears perked up, as I thought this person was absent.

I asked, “Where is Mary?”

One of the other attendees said, “Oh, she is at her desk. Said she had others things she had to work on.”

Apparently, she did.

Do you think that remote participants in the same building are actually engaged?

Have you ever called on someone on a conference call and it takes them a full 30 seconds to respond? Then you get the standard, “Oh, I was stuck on mute!”

Right.

Are you really working if you “call it in?”

Phone Rules

I believe in remote teams and think that most companies could be more virtual.

However, when you are in person, be in the meeting.

When you are in the same location, it does not makes sense to “phone it in.”

The benefits of meeting in person far outweigh any side work that might get done.

What local workers are really saying when they “phone it in,” is that they are not going to participate. That they have other things they are going to work on.

If you have other things to do, then by all means practice the “Right to Decline.” Otherwise, attend and give your full participation to the meeting.

To get the most out of you phone meetings, here are a few of my favorite phone rules:

  1. No Conference Calls in the Building – If you are in the same office location, it is unacceptable to dial-in to a conference meeting. Go to the meeting.
  2. No Other Work – You are either in the meeting or not. This goes for local and remote participants. You shouldn’t be working in the meeting, nor should you be doing other things outside the meeting. Ever have a remote attendee that is running errands or doing something that everyone else on the call can hear?
  3. Reach Out and Touch Someone – As the old ad slogan says, “Reach out and touch someone.” Whenever possible, go see the person you need to talk to. This is similar to #1, but refers to people who call down the hall instead of walking down the hall to talk to someone.
  4. Silence Those Cell Phones – All cell phones should be silent during a meeting. If you really want to get picky, vibrate is not silent. Anyone who has had to listen to a conference table hum can attest to this.
  5. Minimize Distractions – Even better than silencing phones, it to ban technology altogether from your meeting. Try holding a “Paper Meeting” where participants can only bring a notebook and pen. No phones, iPads, laptops, etc.

Don’t Phone It In

Technology is a great enabler.

I use it all the time to connect with people in other countries and on the other side of the globe.

It is very powerful when used in productive ways.

However, when it is abused it can be a huge productivity waster.

So, take a look at your actions, are you calling it in from down the hall?

Because if you are, I am going to wonder what else in your life you are “phoning in.”

What are you best examples of people use technology to “phone it in?”

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • BoeshaneHR

    All great points! Unfortunately, my company often has large town hall type meetings where not everyone in the building who is scheduled to attend the meeting can fit in the room. In these instances we must call in – and often hear everything twice through the open door and on the phone! Though, I know many of us who don’t get a seat in the room do additional work at the same time. Shame on us I suppose?

  • BoeshaneHR

    All great points! Unfortunately, my company often has large town hall type meetings where not everyone in the building who is scheduled to attend the meeting can fit in the room. In these instances we must call in – and often hear everything twice through the open door and on the phone! Though, I know many of us who don’t get a seat in the room do additional work at the same time. Shame on us I suppose?

  • Christina Dusenbery

    I love this. I have been thinking about the need for this kind of culture shift in my own company and would love to propose these rules to the CEO, but the company is large enough where I don’t really have access to people that high up. I need to figure out a way to get this up the chain, though. It is so important.

  • Time Management Ninja

    Thanks @Christina! Sometimes the easiest way is to start by example. Start with your own meetings and conference calls. Good ideas will spread. 🙂

  • Christina Dusenbery

    I love this. I have been thinking about the need for this kind of culture shift in my own company and would love to propose these rules to the CEO, but the company is large enough where I don’t really have access to people that high up. I need to figure out a way to get this up the chain, though. It is so important.

  • Time Management Ninja

    Thanks @Christina! Sometimes the easiest way is to start by example. Start with your own meetings and conference calls. Good ideas will spread. 🙂