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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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  • Well I certainly do (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:51AM (#42202067) Homepage

    I have to sometimes make long calls for my work and I *really* don't want to do it on a tinky winky little mobile phone, its bloody uncomfortable. And if I want to use a speakerphone then i'll need the mobile plugged into the wall anyway so the battery doesn't die halfway through and how is that any more convenient that having a landline with a cable? Also our Cisco deskphones have the entire company phonebook available on them which is very convenient. Their only downside is being IP phones , when the local LAN goes down so do all the phones.

  • Re:Hang on (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:56AM (#42202091)

    I'd like to add to this. I am quite positive that my senior management do not know what "passive aggressive" is. Let's take an example. Recently I was in a meeting with senior management and a potential client. My boss asked the client "can we have a brief about this?" This client said "This is the brief" and moved on with the conversation. After the meeting my boss said the client was passive aggressive because of his answer to that question. Actually, that was not a passive aggressive response at all -- it was more closely assertive. A passive aggressive person would have replied "sure" and then never sent a brief. A passive aggressive person very rarely says "no". I can't see the link between IM and passive aggressiveness at all.

  • by jorjb ( 223941 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:00AM (#42202103)

    I work with phones for a living at the largest private employer in Philadelphia.

    While office phones are clearly on the decline, they ain't dead yet. We have approximately 20k phones, half of which are VoIP and half of which are either POTS or a digital offering from the local carrier. All of them are converting to VoIP, slowly, and in the process I'm watching the attrition that the OP probably expects. It makes sense to get rid of single lines where they're unused and unnecessary.

    However, there remains the complex office setup where you have administrative assistants, or a suite front desk, and shared line appearances. Once someone wants to be able to put a call on hold on one phone and pick it up on a different physical phone, they want it to work like the same technology did in the 80s.

    Of course it was easier in the 80s, when those phones shared a dedicated physical copper pair that carried nothing but the voice. With digital signaling it's significantly trickier; Broadsoft has a proprietary protocol to handle this, and the IETF specification ( []) never left Internet Draft status (which, frankly, is a good thing as it's a very poor protocol).

    I don't see that complex setup going away any time soon, as it's a common VIP pattern.

  • by rusty0101 ( 565565 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:17AM (#42202185) Homepage Journal

    I work about 45 feet underground and the only cell service available is through a carrier that I won't use. Should my company ever provide me with a cell phone that may change, but I'm not expecting that upgrade any time soon.

    I rarely if ever use skype, whether at work, or at home. At work it would not punch through the corporate firewall, and at home I don't have sufficient need to use it to communicate with family or friends as most can reach me via other platforms.

    At work I actually have two phones at my desk, one for day to day calls, and another for bridge lines that I need to monitor. Some of the managers around here have 3 phones on their desks to give them that capability for multiple bridge lines, and also to have a line available to contact their managers for issues that need their attention.

    The firewall pretty much blocks all forms of VPN, IM and SIP that can't run over http through a proxy. All such traffic is continuously monitored and content which violates corporate policy may subject the employee to disciplinary processes including (and not limited to) termination.

    These limitations would be imposed on me if I were using a corporate Laptop or PC at home as well, as I would be required to establish a vpn to work and all my network traffic wold be required to go through that connection.

    I suspect that this is not unusual for people who work in the financial and trading sectors. At the very least it is an effort being made by the corporations involved to prevent themselves from being subject to penalties related to insider trading. I also suspect that several companies have even harsher limits on what their employees can do across the internet simply because companies are looking to protect customer and owner assets that may be affected by a variety of black hat hacker attacks as well as reducing the potential for damage caused by disgruntled employees (or former employees.)

    Before complaining that this is harsh, and hardly the usual treatment technology users should expect, I have to say that I happen to like where I work, the people I work with, and most of the people I work for. I like most of our customers and most of our stock holders. I can say that this is not unusual in the group I work with, as this is the first company I've worked with where I've had more people leave the group through retirement than through 'better' job offers elsewhere. No, things are not perfect, but on the whole, things are not bad.

  • by Ironhandx ( 1762146 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:50AM (#42202351)

    Company Phonebook aside... a direct phone number is the easiest way to get ahold of people.

    Cell phones are also the devil. If you ever actually want to work a 9-5 and only more when absolutely needed, you should be pushing for your desk phone to be your ONLY phone from work.

    People are screwing themselves over because they think its more convenient for themselves. Did you folks ever consider WHY the company is more than happy to give you a cell?

    Skype etc is just an extension of that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:13AM (#42202717)

    Ok, so here is what I do...

    I travel for work, probably between 80% and 90% of my time. I have a "desk" voip line, my own cell phone (which is expensed), and another unlocked cell phone. The unlock cell phone, I use when not in the country. I purchase a local sim for the country that I am in which is usually on some kind of pay as you go deal, and usually includes data. (the only place so far I could not include data was Morocco).

    What I do then is to "simring" my office desk line to either my own cell, or whichever local sim I am using. My Desk line has a US number. I also purchased a local UK number which forwards to my desk line. The only numbers I give anyone ever, is the desk line, and the UK number that forwards to the desk line. This way, I can turn the forwarding off anytime I want, the wife can still get me, and I stay sane :D

  • by Terje Mathisen ( 128806 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:14AM (#42202727)

    Here in Norway pretty much all medium-sized and larger businesses have agreements with a cell phone company that basically means that all company-internal calls are free, as well as all external calls made via cell towers located around their office locations.

    I.e. all the calls that you would have used a land line phone for in the old days.

    We have of course never had the horrible "cell phone receiver pays" system used in the US, partly because all cell phones have gotten numbers from a couple of separate ranges, never used for land-line phones, so that we always knew if we were calling a fixed or mobile phone.

    The last time I bought a cell phone with a contract clause must have been 5+ years ago, it was for one of my kids.


  • by neyla ( 2455118 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:37AM (#42202875)

    That's not true. When I'm on call I: have to be sober, have to get the phone, have to be within 20 minutes of work, have to show up promptly if something happens, have to have childcare taken care of so that I'm not tied down. None of that is now true 24x7.

    It's true that my boss may call me. If he does, time spent is rounded up, an hour is added and it's overtime at 150%, in other words, a 5-minute telephone-conversation with me costs him 3 hours pay. At that rate, he doesn't call unless it genuinely IS important, and at that rate, I don't mind.

    So what's the catch ?

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker