At the same time. I suppose you should count yourself lucky if he or she has at least muted the call first.
I don’t run any conference calls, I don’t think, but I take part in enough of them and I have been caught doing something I shouldn’t. Not that. It’s not like that. I have had a habit of writing something while on the call and, believe it or not, the vibration of my typing has somehow got through to the others. Busted, I believe is the phrase.
But I haven’t gone to the loo during one. I haven’t muted any. (I was once on the loo when Tony Robinson phoned me back about a Radio Times article but I shuffled to my office so fast that nobody ever found out.)
Apparently, though, I’m less than common in all this:
More than 60 percent of Intercall’s respondents admitted to doing other work or sending an email while on a conference call. More than half the people on the line are eating (hopefully on mute). Just under half are in the bathroom (hopefully on mute!). One in five are shopping. One in 11 are exercising. Six percent are taking another call. Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about looking up Clayton Kershaw’s ERA+.
The academic literature doesn’t say that meetings are intrinsically pointless. After all, that conclusion wouldn’t make any sense. There are some questions that require input from entire teams, or from individuals from multiple divisions, and it would be absurd to call for dozens of one-on-one meetings rather than call a single get-together.