UK employees are growing more reliant on conference calls – even if we don't all fully concentrate on the matter at hand. According to a new survey, nearly two-thirds of conference call users admit to doing something else while so engaged – these activities include emailing colleagues and carrying on Internet shopping.

The research from Opinion Matters, commissioned by headset vendor Plantronics, found that, use of conference calls has increased by 84 percent in the last year – with users spending more than three hours per week on the phone. The drive towards conference calls has mainly been driven by a desire to keep costs down, although the survey found that some participants were keen to keep their carbon footprint low.

However, we're not all that happy about the situation. More than half the respondents said that they were unable to hear all the discussions, while nearly half found that background noise was distracting. Rather disconcertingly, 30 percent of respondents found they lost interest if one of the speakers was boring or annoying.

Paul Clark, General Manager, Plantronics, said, "Our research shows that conference calls are only useful if you can keep people engaged, through meaningful and structured discussion, clarity of audio and a certain amount of voice presence. A staggering number of people are wasting their time, and that of others, by holding ineffective calls."