By Matt Key, Managing Director at Cable&Wireless Worldwide

According to research conducted by Cable&Wireless Worldwide, the mission critical communications provider, despite Brits reliance on electronic communications, we still see face-to-face contact, either via video conferencing or by being in the same room, as fundamental to positive business collaboration.

The majority of British respondents, 87 per cent, claimed actually seeing colleagues or a contact was important in making business decisions. Elsewhere, almost all respondents from India and Singapore (96 per cent in Singapore and 98 per cent in India) state that they are more likely to make business decisions when dealing with people face-to-face.

Cable&Wireless Worldwide provides telephone and video conferencing solutions to large national and multi-national companies and UK Government departments. It estimates that the use of managed video conferencing (MVC) saves customers at least 25 per cent on their travel costs. The number of video conferencing units being deployed to customers has increased by 34 per cent over the last 12 months. Internally, Cable&Wireless Worldwide uses video conferencing extensively, clocking up over 1.2 million minutes across the business in 2010 with usage increasing 36 per cent in the last six months alone.

The survey also looked at focus and attention span on phone calls, telephone conference calls and video conference calls finding that, internationally, 45 per cent of people taking part in telephone conference calls check or write emails, 41 per cent surf the internet and 11 per cent have even made another phone call.

In the UK, 42 per cent of business people admit to having checked or written emails when on an audio conference call, while 35 per cent have doodled and 3 per cent have even fallen asleep. Concentration and focus on telephone conference calls in the UK begins to wane after an average of 23 minutes, but on a video conference call or in a face-to-face meeting it leaps to 35 minutes. This is on par with Singaporeans who report the longest concentration time on a video conference at 37 minutes. Interestingly, on regular phone calls the average focus in the UK is just nine minutes compared to 16 minutes in Germany.

Matt Key, Managing Director, Enterprise at Cable&Wireless Worldwide, comments: "What this research demonstrates very clearly is the importance that people still place in actually seeing peers and associates to discuss business matters. Both telephone and video communications have an important role to play, particularly in the workplace. However, this research clearly shows that telephone conference calls are best suited for a shorter conversation while video conferencing can ensure that people are focused for longer.

"It seems video calls are better for discussions where it is important to not only hear what is being said but also see how people on the other end are expressing themselves. Video conferencing is particularly well suited to greater numbers of participants and meetings where visual props need to be discussed."