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Ask Slashdot: Do You Still Need a Phone At Your Desk? 445

First time accepted submitter its a trappist! writes "When I started my career back in the early 1990s, everyone had a 'business phone' phone on their desk. The phone was how your co-workers, customers, friends and family got in touch with you during the business day. It had a few features that everyone used — basic calling, transfer, hold, mute, three-way calling (if you could figure it out). This was before personal mobile phones or corporate IM, so the phone was basically the one and only means of real-time communication in the office. Flash forward 20 years. Today I have a smart phone, corporate IM, several flavors of personal IM, the Skype client and several flavors of collaboration software including Google Apps/Docs, GoToMeeting. My wife and daughter call me or text me on the cell phone. My co-workers who are too lazy or passive aggressive to wander into my office use IM. My brother in Iraq uses Skype. I use GoToMeeting and its built-in VoIP with customers. The big black phone sits there gathering dust. I use it for conference calls a few times each month. I'm sure that there are sales people out there who would rather give up a body part than their trusty office phone, but do any of the rest of us need them? Around here, the younger engineers frequently unplug them and stick them in a cabinet to free up desk space. Are the days of the office phone (and the office phone system) at an end?"
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Ask Slashdot: Do You Still Need a Phone At Your Desk?

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  • I certainly don't (Score:4, Informative)

    by jevring ( 618916 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:30AM (#42201965) Homepage
    Like the OP, we use Skype officially at the company. I have even given my phone to my desk neighbor...
  • Call Quality (Score:5, Informative)

    by Going_Digital ( 1485615 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:49AM (#42202063)
    How can you seriously conduct business on a Cell phone ? The quality is awful, h_lf t__ time you o_ly get half the sent__e and have to either guess what was said or ask people to repeat themselves. Having a clear line is much more comfortable when using the phone all day and gives a much better impression. If I get a call from a company using a poor quality mobile I think to myself are they so cheap that they can't afford a proper phone ?
  • Yes... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:49AM (#42202065)

    I'm a software engineer - unlike the sales guys I don't have a work mobile phone, just a desk phone.

    And it works for when I want to call other internal departments or outside.

    Funny that.

  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:05AM (#42202137) Journal

    Landlines are tied to a place.

    With older systems, sure.

    Last big place I worked, the "landlines" were all voip phones running on a virtual network (to ensure QoS) on the same network switches as the regular gig-e network. It used a standard SIP backbone and you could port the number around the place or, in fact to any computer including a cellphone with a data connection. That's not much of a problem in the UK since you can get enough data for voice calls cheaply enough (£10 /mo).

    Was it worth it? Probably. The voice quality was generally substantially better than skype, probably because of the decent microphone and QoS within the local network at any rate. Also, for some reason about 80% of the UK population seem to be incapable of keeping their cellphone number when changing provider (even though it's a legal requirement for the companies to let you port it) and with some people, this seems to involve changing numbers on a fairly regular basis.

    In contrast, because the voip phone system was semi-sane and administered by semi-sane people, it was more common to keep a number for longer. I say semi sane because there was about a 30% chance of changing number when moving office, based mostly on the flip of a biased coin.

    Office phones can also have the advantage that after a set number of rings, they go through to the local secretary, or another worker. I wouldn't want my cellphone to be forwarded to a cow orker if I didn't pick up soon enough.

    TL;DR if you can't pick up office "landline" calls on a cellphone then you're comparing an ancient office phone system to a modern cellphone system which is not really a fair comparison.

    Oh and fun fact:

    Advanced prototype office phone systems in the late 90s had all those features, automatic porting, mobile options, apps and, of course, icon grids and touch screens.

    http://www.xorl.org/people/njh/bpstory/index.html [xorl.org]

    Sadly those never came available even though they would still kick ass.

  • by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:07AM (#42202141) Journal
    My phone rings so infrequently that when it does it literally scares me.
  • Re:Hang on (Score:3, Informative)

    by Stickerboy ( 61554 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:28AM (#42202251) Homepage

    I can't speak for the poster, but he said his passive aggressive co-workers use IM. He didn't actually call IM users passive aggressive. There is a distinct difference between those two statements.

    The implication was/is that passive aggressive people in his/her company are more likely to use IM rather than picking up the phone. It doesn't make sense at all.

    It makes perfect sense. Passive-aggressives avoid visible and outright conflict or argument. Why would they want to have a conversation that could turn negative when they could simply shoot off a text or email?

  • Re:*facepalm* (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:30AM (#42202265)

    Actually I agree with girlintraining. I'm 45 and will keep my desk phone for the following reasons.

    1. I work for the government and making internals costs nothing as it uses VOIP.
    2. I work with a team of people and we have group pickup which is extremely important (where's that function on a smart phone?)
    3. Desk phones are a hell of a lot more reliable for teleconferencing.
    4. I'm in an office and I can see if one of my team members is on the phone by the flashing red light on my phone - This assists me if I need to transfer the call but notice they are busy on another call.
    5. The cost of calls using land lines is MUCH cheaper than a mobile.
    6. Reliability. As stated they just work!; and lastly
    7. You can't use a normal deskphone for facebook or twitter (god help us) and waste work time.

    So no we won't see the demise of desk phones for the forceable future or at least until the 40 and 50 years olds retire.

  • by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:40AM (#42202303) Journal

    Do you still need a desk phone?

    I suppose the answer would depend on the country, with the need basically vanished from much of Europe. We abandoned them years ago, except for the switchboard/receptionists and a handful of fixed lines for FAX machines (still needed for transactions with some countries). Everyone has a company-issued mobile phone; several hundred employees. They're not the top-end Android or iPhone models, but far above the dinky-toy model level. Everybody can be reached, almost anywhere, unless they switch off the phone. Of course, it's standard practice to switch them off when work is over for the day.

  • Re:Call Quality (Score:5, Informative)

    by jrminter ( 1123885 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:54AM (#42202371)
    You are spot on. I work in a basement lab (electron microscopy) constructed with Hauserman partition walls (metal over drywall type core). These act like a Faraday Cage and cause cellular reception to be awful. To make matters worse, my management - trying to cut cost - decided that everybody had personal electronic devices these days and eliminated voice mail on our desk phone. What a mess. I have a hard time reading Dilbert these days -- it is too close to my reality...
  • Re:I certainly don't (Score:5, Informative)

    by somersault ( 912633 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:03AM (#42202403) Homepage Journal

    Maybe I misunderstood the original question.

    You did. It was specifically about do we need dedicated desk phones, not "do we need to communicate with one another". The summary even mentioned VoIP.

    95% of my incoming calls are reception asking if I want to speak to somebody trying to sell me something. My coworkers and bosses can already mail or Skype IM me. I'd love to get rid of my phone, but I'm not sure I can justify it quite yet.

  • by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:07AM (#42202687)

    Regardless of what it looks like, it's far better for doing any sort of support where you need to type. I find that if I send a couple of hours with a phone on my shoulder while typing (which really doesn't work with mobile phones) I end up with a very sore neck or back the next day. It's just not comfortable.

Real Programmers don't write in PL/I. PL/I is for programmers who can't decide whether to write in COBOL or FORTRAN.