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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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  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:33AM (#42201985)

    Landlines are tied to a place.

    Each will have pros and cons and which on is appropriate for the situation depends on this basic fact.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:39AM (#42202013)

    I am the typewriter.
    I used to be cool. The cool tool that everyone loved.
    The young nubile secretaries pushed my buttons :D and the writers tapped me until I became a conduit to their magical worlds.
    I was the greatest invention since the phone.
    And then suddenly, rather gradually... it was over.
    Now I sit in a closet collecting dust.

    I feel your plight, office phone. I feel it.

  • Hang on (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:48AM (#42202053)

    In one breath you are labelling people who use IM "passive aggressive" (are they really?) and in the next you seem to be advocating getting rid of the phone for other methods of communication (including IM). That doesn't make much sense at all. Also, why does using IM mean or imply as person is passive aggressive. Do you actually know what passive aggressive is, or is it just a buzzword for you? I ask because if someone were truly passive aggressive they probably wouldn't include you in the IM at all.

  • *facepalm* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:54AM (#42202079)

    Are the days of the office phone (and the office phone system) at an end?"

    Why is it that just because a bunch of younger people have gotten used to a different way of doing things, that somehow makes the way older people do things evil, wrong, out of date, etc.? The office phone is not there so you can twit your friendface and blog the interwebs: It's there for business. It's there for all possible meanings of the phrase "your call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes." It's there because it won't shit itself when 500 people decide to visit a Youtube video about a cat. It has no dead zones, doesn't need you to take the battery out if you try to load too many apps, or the SD card wiggles loose, etc. It. Just. Works.

    Businesses like things that just work. Your cell phone may be cutting edge state of the art, the thing all the cool kids are using and blah blah blah, but businesses care about those kinds of things... said no one. Ever. Businesses care about fixed costs and reliability and your cell phone won't ever have either. Configure one little thing wrong and you could be eating hundreds of dollars in overage fees... and god help you if your battery charge is running low and you're in the middle of an important call.

    Land lines: Because they just work, bitches.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:00AM (#42202101)

    Same here. The company I work for recently moved offices and we didn't bother getting a phone system in the new place. We got a bunch of USB handsets that were desgined to be used with MS Communicator / Lync, but they work great with Skype.

    Okay, so they plug in somewhere different but aren't they the "office phones"? In which case it sounds like you do need them. Maybe I misunderstood the original question.

  • by GNU(slash)Nickname ( 761984 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:08AM (#42202145)

    Their only downside is being IP phones , when the local LAN goes down so do all the phones.

    This happens often enough to be an issue?

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:37AM (#42202287)

    This looks like a very typical case of having found that you can live without something and then suddenly thinking it has no place in society.

    Honestly you can have my desk phone when you pry it from my cold dead fingers. Actually no you can have it when you provide me with a SECOND company mobile... which incidentally won't leave my desk.

    I am in the same boat as you in my company. We IM each other when we can't be stuffed walking, email each other to put things on the record, use a mixture of sharepoint and other "collaboration suites" if they can be called that, and everyone has my mobile number.

    My mobile number however is issued to those who desperately need to talk to me. You won't find it on my business card. You will not get it if you're a customer, a vendor, or even a contractor working for me for all but the most urgent and important of jobs. This is a method of making space for myself. This is something very important if you work with people who think that every job is urgent and you should be called in at any time.

    We do have someone who briefly tried to ditch the company phone. He simply forwarded his company phone to his mobile and unplugged it. Less than a week later he spat the dummy on his little exercise when someone called him at 6pm starting the conversation with: "Oh I was expecting to simply leave you a message, but since you're here..."

  • by jevring ( 618916 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:40AM (#42202301) Homepage
    We have both "normal" landline phones and IP phones, and yes, the IP phone system going down is actually an issue. It happens regularly...
  • by dintech ( 998802 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:44AM (#42202325)
    The point I was trying to make is that sometimes a specialist device is really ergonomic and good at the job, even if other devices can technically achieve the same end.
  • Re:Call Quality (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:52AM (#42202369) Homepage

    You cant, but there are a lot of poseurs that think they can.

    Even high end phones like the iPhone or a Flagship Android phone has Crap call quality compared to a correctly configured VoIP phone system at the office. and no using VoIP client on your phone over a VPN on the cell data network does not count. You get a ton of problems doing that. Jitter and latency through the roof are just a couple that make it a complete fail on a cell network.

  • Re:*facepalm* (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:10AM (#42202421)

    Land lines: Because they just work, bitches.

    One more thing - they stay working even when you leave. A number / extension can be tied to position or location so when one person leaves the new person still gets the relevant business calls. Oh yea, they also don't ring in your pocket while you are on vacation.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:35AM (#42202525)

    Are the days of the office phone (and the office phone system) at an end?"

    Not remotely. Sure mobile devices are going to take huge swaths of market share from land line phones but it's not hard to find use cases where a land line phone is required, useful or even preferable. Off the top of my head:
    1) Managing multiple lines into a company. Could be done with wireless theoretically but much easier with landlines presently
    2) Legal/statutory requirements. Particularly for certain industries like financial services there is a requirement to have a landline
    3) Mobile phones get lost, land line phones don't.
    4) Separation of work from personal life. With a mobile device it is harder to separate the two unless you carry two of them and who wants to do that?
    5) Cost - land line phones can be a lot cheaper to own/operate and aren't obsolete after 4 years.
    6) Office features including paging, multiple lines, better speaker phones, etc
    7) Comfort - land line phones have handsets that are actually designed with the human head in mind
    8) Sunken costs - Land line phones are already installed to most buildings in the US and other parts of the world.
    9) Reliability - land line phones are FAR more reliable and have better voice quality than mobile devices almost without exception.
    10) Users - lots of workers are not techie geeks and find a land line phone a preferable method of communication
    11) Many users do not need to move from their desks. Why pay for the extra cost of mobile when it is not needed?

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:37AM (#42202533) Homepage

    "I also tend to use ear buds while on the move. This allows me to hear the conversations better. Lets me get stuff done while I hoof it between people."

    Sounds to me like your company has you by the balls. But you probably see it as liberating. Funny how perceptions can be different.

  • I do too (Score:5, Insightful)

    by captainpanic ( 1173915 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:43AM (#42202571)

    1. Comfort. A big phone is just more comfortable.
    2. Keeping everything separated. Work calls me at work, which means they don't bother me at home.
    3. Speaker phone. As said before, speaker option on a mobile is (1) often still a little crappy and (2) drains the batteries, which means you need to plug it into your charger, which is inconvenient because the cable is just too damned short.
    4. Name-based speed dial for the whole company. There's probably an app for that on smart phones too, but we have it on the desk phone, and it's very convenient.
    5. Money. We already have this infrastructure. It's paid and depreciated. Especially internal calls cost practically nothing.

    1. No smart phone to play with, i.e. no angry birds
    2. My colleagues and business partners cannot reach me 24/7, but I don't call that a disadvantage.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:03AM (#42202655)

    Anyone, anywhere who uses a headset to make phone calls looks like an utter twat.

    As opposed to holding a small piece of plastic to the side of your head for the duration of a two hour conference call? And trying to type one-handed?

    I'll happily look like a twat and be comfortable, thank you.

  • by PIBM ( 588930 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:31AM (#42202839) Homepage

    Sadly, that's blatantly false; if your company is using skype and linked a phone number to the account or a virtual PBX in front, then you will certainly be interrupted exactly as with your normal phone. That also applies to any other systems allowing phone numbers to be plugged in..

  • by water-and-sewer ( 612923 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:37AM (#42202883) Homepage

    One nice benefit of desk phones I haven't seen posted here:

    When you go home at the end of the day, the phone stays on your desk. So, no one calls you. If your cell phone *is* your workphone, they can call you on the way out the door, on the bus, while you're feeding the kids dinner, and all night.

    Sometimes it's nice to know work stays in the office, and home is home. You can do that with a cell by turning it off, but I don't know many people who ever do that anymore.

  • Re:Hang on (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CompuGeek ( 11377 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @10:21AM (#42203177)

    I don't know how you get anything done with so many sources of distraction. Turn off the rest of the stuff (email too) and if anybody needs to communicate with you they came walk to your desk or call you. Check your email once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Anything that happens that is so important it needs immediate attention should come over the phone or face-to-face. You don't need to get rid of the phone. You need to get rid of everything else you *think* you need. Just because it's new and *kewl* doesn't mean you need it. They're mostly toys.

  • Call quality (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kelemvor4 ( 1980226 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @11:17AM (#42203831)
    Call quality of cellphones just is not sufficient for business teleconferences. People attending meetings with cellphones are frequently asked to drop rather than wasting many folks' time with "what? could you repeat that"

    Cellphones are important too, but they're not quite a replacement for a landline in business.

    Skype or other VOIP is fine, as long as you can access it from your location and your company does not forbid it. Many do, since it's trivial and legal to record audio from them unlike a land line telephone (in the US).

    As for people not being able to figure out things like 3 way calling.... If I had someone that inept on my team they sure wouldn't be around long. Conference calling is something any elementary school child should be able to master in a few minutes.
  • by thoth ( 7907 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:38PM (#42204751) Journal

    Do you still need a desk phone?

    I want a desk phone. I want some way to be reached at work and nowhere else.
    All that other stuff is good too, for friends and family, but for work-related stuff, desk phone please (and I suppose "work only" ids for IM/Skype/whatever).

  • by porges ( 58715 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @02:10PM (#42205897) Homepage

    I use a land line when I want to comfortably understand the person on the other end. (The world seems to be divided into people who notice that cell phones lose a lot of signal information compared to land lines, and people who don't.)

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