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

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the dial-U-for-useless dept.

Businesses 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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I certainly don't (3, Informative)

jevring (618916) | about a year and a half ago | (#42201965)

Like the OP, we use Skype officially at the company. I have even given my phone to my desk neighbor...

Re:I certainly don't (1)

mdsharpe (1051460) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202039)

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.

Re:I certainly don't (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Shouldn't the question be... (1, Informative)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202303)

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:I certainly don't (4, Informative)

somersault (912633) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202403)

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.

Well I certainly do (5, Interesting)

Viol8 (599362) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202067)

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:Well I certainly do (3, Insightful)

GNU(slash)Nickname (761984) | about a year and a half ago | (#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?

Re:Well I certainly do (3, Insightful)

jevring (618916) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202301)

We have both "normal" landline phones and IP phones, and yes, the IP phone system going down is actually an issue. It happens regularly...

Re:Well I certainly do (1)

dkf (304284) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202341)

We have both "normal" landline phones and IP phones, and yes, the IP phone system going down is actually an issue. It happens regularly...

Sounds to me like the issue is more that they don't stay down. Down with 3-hour telecons!

Re:Well I certainly do (2)

peragrin (659227) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202317)

It was at my previous employer. Of course the problem was "Local Lan" spanned 7 different ISP's to create the VPN Network the company operated under.If the local cable company(who else does high speed?) on average failed once a month it was really noticable.

Re:Well I certainly do (2)

Viol8 (599362) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202349)

It doesn't happen often , maybe once or twice a year, but its a nuisance when it does.

Re:Well I certainly do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202193)

Get a headset for the mobile - the kind with a plug not that bluetooth stuff. Works great for long phone calls.

Re:Well I certainly do (5, Funny)

dintech (998802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202295)

"When I started my career back in the early 1990s, every floor had a 'urinal' in the bathroom. The urinal was how your co-workers, customers, friends and family emptied their bladders during the business day. It had a few features that everyone used — upright pissing position, automatic flush, quick drainage, three-way pissing (if you didn't mind standing close together). This was before personal chamber pots or shitting at work was allowed, so the urinal was basically the one and only means of bladder relief in the office. Flash forward 20 years. Today I have a chamber pot, directors en-suite, several scented flavors of toilet stalls, the squat toilet for foreign visitors and several flavors of collaboration urinals including along against-the-wall ones, center circle ones. My wife and daughter pee on the chamber pot. My co-workers who are too lazy or passive aggressive to put the toilet seat down in the stalls. My brother in Iraq uses the squat toilet. I use the directors toilet with built-in bidet and heated seat. The old along-the-wall urinal sits there gathering dust. I use it for conference calls-of-nature 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 urinal, 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, it makes a real fucking mess of the floor. Are the days of the office urinal (and the office urinal plumbing) at an end?"

Re:Well I certainly do (5, Insightful)

dintech (998802) | about a year and a half ago | (#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:Well I certainly do (1)

rvw (755107) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202309)

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.

We're a small company with people working for us worldwide. We give them a VOIP phone, and we have an Asterisk phone server, hosted by Amazon. Now what can happen? Amazon can go down, our server at amazon can go down, our own ISP can go down, our own LAN can go down, and the phones can simply break (and they do). Of course, when we have a problem at our LAN, that has no effect for the other phones. For incoming calls we use another service provider, who links a public phone number to the VOIP network. If they go down, no incoming calls from public numbers. So there are quite some points of failure, and still it works pretty OK most of the time.

Re:Well I certainly do (5, Interesting)

Ironhandx (1762146) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Well I certainly do (0)

neyla (2455118) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202439)

Why ? Because sometimes it's cheaper. Because employees like smartphones and it might thus help employee-retention. Because it increases flexibility since you can be reached even if not at your desk.

Where's the "screwing over" ? I've got a company-paid mobile phone, and up until now ain't seen it.

Re:Well I certainly do (2)

upuv (1201447) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202365)

Tinky winky little mobile. This is a purely a preference choice in mobile. The should be a phone that meets every ones personal style/ergo prefs.

Speaker phone. No problem. I have a very long usb lead that charges my phone while I'm at my desk. I also get the benefit of transferring data to and from the phone that I gather through the day that is not suitable for cloud. Some of this data is photo's of white boards from meetings. So now my charging is doing 3 things. I see this as a huge bonus. I made my phone actually sync data as soon as I plug it in any way. So I really don't have any effort to move stuff around.

My whole entire company phone book is in my phone. And It's automatic. One of the accounts I subscribe to on the phone is the corp account. It's all in the phone now. And I can do voice search across it. Works super slick. No updates required.

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.

But I am vulnerable to lost access to mobile internet. But seems less of an issue than when i used an IP desk phone. But that was a bad wired corp network.

Re:Well I certainly do (1)

fa2k (881632) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202443)

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.

Seems like a headset would be a great option, whether connected to a desk phone, mobile phoone or computer

Re:Well I certainly do (2)

neyla (2455118) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202457)

For long calls you want a good-quality headset. These exist for both Skype, for mobile phones, and for traditional desk-phones, so this is really no argument at all in favor of any of them.

Cell phones are usually tied to a person (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Cell phones are usually tied to a person (2)

emj (15659) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202025)

Yes I do find that land lines or stationary phones do have a place, I really like being able to call home to someone, or to a specific place. Especially when I know I can only be helped if someone is at that specific place. But considering the amount of cellphones I can have in my pocket on a bad day I would say cell phones are tied to a service; i.e. the service I provide to my family and friends, my work, and soccer practice etc.

Re:Cell phones are usually tied to a person (5, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202137)

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.

Re:Cell phones are usually tied to a person (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202345)

Landlines are tied to a place.

You kidding? We have IP phones in our building... you walk into a lab, you login on the phone at that station... instantly it's an exact duplicate of the phone at your desk from accepting calls, to speed dial lists...

When I get home I login on the exact same model phone and the exact same thing happens.

Hell once Avaya patents the idea of an RF proximity dongle there won't even be a need to login... just standing near a phone that is programmed to recognize my key will have it login--and likewise the phones will know not to bother ringing if I'm not around...

No (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42201989)

No.

No (1)

SirJorgelOfBorgel (897488) | about a year and a half ago | (#42201995)

As is the rule with "Ask Slashdot", the answer to the question is "no".

I haven't had a dedicated desk phone in years. Lots of people don't even have their own desks anymore. Skype/IM or if really needed many companies (at least over here) will give you a smartphone just for work purposes.

Re:No (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202087)

Where I work, nobody has a desk phone. Everyone has a smartphone and a laptop. You can switch offices easily, share them if people work at home on alternating days, form impromptu sessions in common areas, etc. My smartphone actually gets used so little that it generally gets left at my desk, as I also carry my personal one. It would be quite easy for many people to do without one completely.

Re:No (1)

wmac1 (2478314) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202215)

I was forced to have a landline because it was the telco's requirement for having an ADSL. But since I moved to wireless internet, I have not had a fixed line. I use mobile phone for receiving calls and calling local numbers, a cheap VOIP service (half the price of Skype and Google) for calling my Mom in another country and skype for talking to may friends abroad.

Re:No (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202313)

As is the rule with "Ask Slashdot", the answer to the question is "no".

The only reliable rule with Slashdot is that people will take their own anecdotes and suddenly think that it will apply to everyone.

Not everyone needs to reach me everywhere. Hence very few people have my smartphone number, and none of those people are customers, vendors, contractors, auditors, or people around the office who have a history of self importance.

If I'm not at my desk it's because I'm either doing something important, I'm in a meeting, or there's some other reason why I would likely not want to talk to you if you rang my mobile right now. It's like having a PA to sort through the low priority shit. If you are important you'll have my number, if not you can leave me a message that I may hear when I get back to my desk.

And no I'm not going to stop and check the caller ID on a phone that rings every 5 minutes while I'm in a meeting. A desk phone gives me space to get my work done.

I Understand the Pain (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Lean (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202017)

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Certainly not dead (1)

millsey (1987618) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202037)

Besides I try to avoid giving out my mobile number. Keep work calls at work, don't need to be called after I have already clocked off or am on holiday

Depends... (2, Funny)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202041)

Having a phone on your desk can be crucial if you have to pretend you're doing serious work when someone important walks by. Cell phones or IM aren't as convincing, even if you are working.
There's something about text that makes it inherently less efficient than a simple call, and once you start using IM, you tend not to use video or audio.

None of this means you need a phone system, just a phone that uses your cell phone for handling the calls.

3-way calls (1)

msevior (145103) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202047)

I could never figure out how to do those...

Actually I have a fancy VOIP phone which I regularly use along with all the other communication tools listed. I regularly use Video conferencing and skype but the phone has been a very useful fallback when internet connectivity isn't where it should be.

Re:3-way calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202281)

You do understand what the IP in VOIP means, right?

Re:3-way calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202361)

Most business-style VoIP systems have line cards or voice gateways for park connectivity. True 100% IP connectivity is rare if a call leaves an organization.

The org still gets benefits like only needing one network infrastructure, easy phone mobility, etc.

Hang on (3, Insightful)

Psychotria (953670) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Hang on (2, Interesting)

Psychotria (953670) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Hang on (1)

Xenx (2211586) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202097)

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.

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.

Re:Hang on (0)

Psychotria (953670) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202173)

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.

Re:Hang on (2, Informative)

Stickerboy (61554) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202251)

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:Hang on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202331)

But they're using IM!! Pay attention! They're still having that live conversation.

Re:Hang on (1)

Psychotria (953670) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202405)

But they're using IM!! Pay attention! They're still having that live conversation.

100% correct.

Home office and videophone (2)

Zarhan (415465) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202055)

Might be a rather specific use-case, but since there are so many telecommuters...I work from home, and I have a Cisco/Tandberg videophone (one of their "personal systems") on my desk. Although I'm practically never at the office, having the video there gives me that much more "presence" at the office than just being a voice (or writing off emails). The quality is much better than just having a webcam and a laptop + being a dedicated device, I never have to fight with whatever video conferencing software there might be. And of course, it has much better speakerphone capabilities than my cellphone.

I have been very happy with it for the last 2 years. Recently, there has been a bit of pressure to start using MS Lync - but the truth is, Lync is mostly still used as a corporate messenger and not for calls. Lync 2013 does provide for more standards-based approach - instead of MS's RTVideo codec, they are actually going to use H.264, so maybe that'll change things. Then again, you can get one of those Lync-aware phones from Polycom and keep using a dedicated phone.

Call Quality (5, Informative)

Going_Digital (1485615) | about a year and a half ago | (#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 ?

Re:Call Quality (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202119)

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 ?

This! Mod parent up!

Sound quality really falls if both parties are on cell phones and you get
the combined result of two different lossy, low bit rate compression codecs.

Cell phone speaker volume never seems to go as high as that of wired phones either.

Re:Call Quality (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202369)

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:Call Quality (4, Informative)

jrminter (1123885) | about a year and a half ago | (#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:Call Quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202401)

The "proper" phones are VoIP phones nowadays, with often significantly worse call quality than the mobile phones. Yes, I agree that is quite an achievement.

Yes... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

*facepalm* (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:*facepalm* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202125)

Being over 50 I guess that would make me an older person - damn. I have a Cisco phone on my desk, but I never use it. Only the company lawyer ever calls me on it. Everybody else uses my cell phone or Skype. I use my personal cell phone for business, but the company pays me enough that it doesn't matter. The only times I use the Cisco phones is in a conference room and even there I frequently use Skype, since it generally works better than the Cisco junkphones.

Re:*facepalm* (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:*facepalm* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202377)

" I use my personal cell phone for business, but the company pays me enough that it doesn't matter. "

Thanks for being the asshole that is screwing the others.

"Jenkins is happy with giving the firm free cellphone time, why dont the rest of you donate your cellphone useage to the company like the good employee jenkins over here."

It's people like you that let management know they can screw the employees because you let them happily.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

magic maverick (2615475) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202231)

Except when they are VoIP and the power is off. And even though there is meant to be a POTS phone somewhere in the building for emergencies, no one actually knows where it is.

So, yeah, I suggest that desk phones are still useful, depending on the situation. In a previous job, people where scattered across up to six locations. We used the phone whenever we wanted to talk. IM just sometimes doesn't cut it, emotions are harder to get through, etc.

Actually, phone (hands free headset), IM and email were sometimes used all at the same time to communicate with the same person/people. You chat with the phone, you send interesting links with IM (or, look, this is what I mean, as you edit the website scratch area), and the email is used to record decisions.

Personally, if anyone says "I'm going to take your phone away, it costs too much and you don't use it anyway", I'd beg to differ. I'd object. And then they'd probably mention stupid MS Communicator (or whatever it is called now) which is meant to have voice, but just doesn't work as well. First thing in the morning, I can phone someone, it just works (except when it doesn't). But the computer, the computer has to turn on (no we can't leave it on all night, IT gets cranky), and that takes up to five minutes or more.

All these communication tools have their place.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

ray-auch (454705) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202245)

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..

I haven't worked anywhere this century where the office phones have not been VOIP.

They are subject to exactly the same issues as the office internet connection, if that happens to be s**t then the phone dammed well does go down (or reverts to unusable quality) when 500 people hit youtube.

And no matter how much people twiddle with QOS parameters, if the underlying conncection is s**t then QOS just means "what quality of s**t gets assigned to phone".

The fact that the office phone has gone VOIP is what will, in the end, lead to its demise. It can be replaced by Lync / Skype / etc. at no loss of quality, and a great improvement in convenience - your phone follows you without having to login to another device for a start.

Re:*facepalm* (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202277)

They are subject to exactly the same issues as the office internet connection, if that happens to be s**t then the phone dammed well does go down (or reverts to unusable quality) when 500 people hit youtube.

That is the result of a network admin who is a moron. Even managed switches these days come with extensive QoS features, and more and more come with deep packet inspection. There is no excuse for having your phones take a crap because of a sudden burst of internet traffic. None.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

Dr. Hok (702268) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202389)

I haven't worked anywhere this century where the office phones have not been VOIP.

They are subject to exactly the same issues as the office internet connection, if that happens to be s**t then the phone dammed well does go down (or reverts to unusable quality) when 500 people hit youtube.

And no matter how much people twiddle with QOS parameters, if the underlying conncection is s**t then QOS just means "what quality of s**t gets assigned to phone".

In my company the desk phones are VoIP, too. The good part is, they are also IP routers. All IP traffic of workplace PCs goes through them, so the phone decides about priority. AFAIK the phones are meshed into a magic routing network which ensures QoS pretty well. I work in a multinational company where only we in Germany have this kind of phone. All the others use soft phones. And you can tell the difference. The desk phone users' voices are always 100% crisp and clear, while everybody else turns into a robot or disconnects every once in a while. That's pretty annoying, especially in conferences with a dozen participants, so I wish they'd all switch.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

dskoll (99328) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202419)

I haven't worked anywhere this century where the office phones have not been VoIP.

We use Asterisk and IP phones internally, but our connections to the outside world (we're a small company) are still POTS. That's because any affordable DSL connection for a small company totally sucks for doing VoIP and our POTS lines never go down. Ever.

The amount we'd save by switching away from POTS is so tiny in the big scheme of things that it's just not worth it.

Re:Nerd Myopia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202253)

I have to say that the paradigm of phones have shifted, but just because you or the people who do jobs like you don't use them doesn't mean they are or ever will (or at least in the next 30 years) going away.

Military bases/Government Secure Facilities prohibit the possession of cell phones inside the building. Also, I highly doubt you are going to be authorized skype or some other commercial two way web app on that network.

The best part about mp cellphones is that I don't see the old asshats checking their blackberrys (separate rant) in meetings when they are supposed to be paying attention to something else

Re:*facepalm* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202305)

There is enough noise already in open offices. We don't need no stinking phones.

But desk phone usage *is* declining (1)

rundgong (1575963) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202391)

Less and less people get desk phones. In my last three jobs I have not had a desk phone.*
All I have been given is a mobile phone. However this does not mean PBXs (office phone systems) are not being used.
The mobile phone is still connected to a PBX so I can make free internal calls, call co-workers with shorter 4 digit numbers and have all the other PBX services mentioned in the summary .

Of course people who make a lot of calls still need and use hard phones. But where I have worked this has been a minority

This is fairly typical for tech companies in Sweden, i think. It may not be representative for other companies in Sweden or tech companies in other countries though.

There are also two different questions in the summary.
Are office phones coming to an end? No, but usage is declining.
Are office phone systems coming to an end? No, but usage patterns have changed to include mobile phones and IM

* Except when I worked as a developer on a PBX. Then I had around 8 phones on my desk. I still didn't bother to configure any of them for usage as my office phone...

Re:*facepalm* (3, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Not for the forseeable future (5, Interesting)

jorjb (223941) | about a year and a half ago | (#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 (http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-anil-sipping-bla-04 [ietf.org] ) 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.

Suprised... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202109)

... to see most people here answering "no".

Actually most of my communication with other teams in my company still happen over the phone and by email to leave a "paper"-track.

Rings very infrequently (4, Informative)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202141)

My phone rings so infrequently that when it does it literally scares me.

Rectal Carry On Bags (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202149)

I NEED one in my RECTUM!

with a pink panther 2 legged balloon tie hanging out of my anus - and you'll LOVE my ringtones!

Office phones are dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202161)

In our office, we have no landline phones at all. Actually, the office complex where we reside doesn't even have phone lines installed. Admittedly, it is an incubator for IT companies, who may be a bit ahead of the curve. We have one (mobile) phone for the whole office, since some still feel a company must have a phone number, but its only use seems to be for telemarketers to disturb us. BTW, this is in Denmark, not US.

Unplug it. (1)

adolf (21054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202163)

You've already done a fine job of convincing yourself to believe that you do not need a desk phone.

So unplug the phone and put it in a desk drawer. If anyone (including you) complains about it, then there must be a reason to keep it around. Plug it back in for a few months and try again.

But if nobody notices, just rotate it over to the circular file at the same rate as any other disused desktop annoyance. You still get to keep your extension, and you can (presumably) get to your corporate voicemail if you need to by other means.

(And if you just don't like to do conference calls on a cell phone for some reason or other, then the entire Ask Slashdot is for naught. You still need a desk phone anyway, like an addict needs [or does not need] drugs. So either keep using for conference calls, with pride, or stop using it cold turkey, or nobody will care.)

Yes, and I doubt my situation is exactly unique. (4, Interesting)

rusty0101 (565565) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202185)

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.

No (1)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202195)

1) We don't (all) have company cellphones, only the higher-ups, people on stand-duty and people who travel a lot. Also I wouldn't want one as it would mean I am always reachable. 2) While it is mostly replaced with IM, it is still a nice tool to make someone aware that you need something _now_. 3) other people in the room can answer it, eventhough your computer is locked 4) you still hear it ring if you are at a colleagues desk in the same room or casually discussing stuff with teammates or people who walk in and want to know stuff (which happens quite often here) 5) you don't need a headset 6) as both ends hold a handset the conversation is usually shorter and more to the point as you cannot idly play around on your pc or stuff.

Don't underestimate comfort (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202197)

If I'm going to sit on a 1 hour conference call and all the rooms are busy, I do NOT want to grip my mobile phone for that time.

You still have a desk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202203)

You still have a desk? In an actual office building? Do you have coffee machines already, or is there still a lady doing the rounds three times a day for that?

All I've got is a laptop bag with a laptop and a cellphone. Wherever I lay my laptop, that's my office.

Skype - sounds like....well, Skype (1)

Tomsk70 (984457) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202209)

I can usually tell instantly if someone is calling from either Skype or a mobile, simply because of the compression and cut-outs.

Just that alone will annoy a potential client - and I really prefer not to give out my own mobile number (because then you get calls from the international helpdesk at 3am).

the OP reminds me of someone that just doesn't realise or accept that MP3's sound crap becuase that's all they've ever known.

Very very much yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202213)

I work in a call center environment you insensitive clod!

Cost is far too prohibitive in Australia (1)

AbRASiON (589899) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202219)

Cost of mobile calls even on a big business plan is far too expensive to always use the mobile phone compared to the desk phone. As much as your idea about saving the desk space is fantastic (never even occured to me) - every now and then I make an extremely long phone call in the office and on a cell - that would really add up.

Not in all offices! (1)

Terminus32 (968892) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202221)

Smart phones and main desk phones without PCs are still the norm in my office! We have PCs but those are used by admin...

For me, yes. For the guys I work with, no. (1)

Stolpskott (2422670) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202239)

Most of my job is application/system support work for securities traders in the bank I work at. 80% of the cases we deal with come to us by telephone (the vast majority of the rest are people shouting across the room or walking over to our desks), but the "phone" they call is actually an appliance that auto-forwards to a mobile phone, so no desk phone required.
The traders, however, are using specialist VoIP trading telephones from IPC or BT with lots of knobs, bells and whistles, external speaker boxes, dedicated voice broadcast/multicast speaker boxes, et cetera. Most of those guys would rather lose a leg or two than their desk telephone.

You still go t work? (0)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202247)

Dude you are OLD

No (at least I don't) (1)

TheHonch (1390893) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202269)

When my company (actually a government agency) moved six years ago I chose an all mobile solution for us, saved a lot of cabling and reduced the number of phones ringing at an empty desk. Nobody misses the old phones. The mobile solution is also a lot cheaper.

integration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202271)

Sure yeah. Since Microsoft discontinued the Skype integration with Asterisk, our VoIP phones are more than necessary to contact other Geo-located offices paying nothing than the tie line costs.

I have a Nokia brick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202283)

I have a Nokia brick you insensitive clod!!!
Please!! I want some time of privacy, wired phone are far superior. I don't want to receive work calls while in the restroom.

Good question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202285)

I'm working in a big telco company, and we have all mobile phones. The phone on the desk got replaced by Lync (Unified Messaging), so every employee gets a smart phone + headset for phone calls using Lync.

Customers, Vendors, Government ... (4, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year and a half ago | (#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..."

Re:Customers, Vendors, Government ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202465)

I'd fire you in a heartbeat.

I would have to say no. (2)

Phoenix (2762) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202293)

First of all, unless the cell phone is being provided by my company I feel no obligation to do any work from it (apart from being available to be reached when I'm on call or in an emergency). So unless they provide the phone or subsidize my wireless bill...they're putting a phone in my desk.

Secondly I work in a hospital. We configure the patient call system and the heart monitors to ring to the assigned nurse's handset phone (which is an extension of the PBX system). So going phone-free would be a hardship to our facility.

We may be trending that way but I don't think that the end of the PBX Office Phone network is nigh

We still use it a lot (1)

cerealito (814622) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202315)

I don't know elsewhere, but here in France offices have phones ringing all the time.

We do have IM and voice conferencing via MS Office communicator or Webex but we mostly use those for calling our offshore teams or for conferencing with more than one person at the same time.

There's this culture that considers IMs as second priority. IMs are easily discarded, and people might claim that they didn't get them. If you want something to get done you have to make a call.

Recruiters (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202323)

The only reason why my office phone ever rings inbound, is because some piece-of-shit recruiter has scammed his way past the switchboard in order to waste my time.

The phone is vaguely useful for teleconferencing, and when I don't want to spend my own money using my own mobe for business. Apart from that, it's an annoyance.

For everything else, there's Skype/Lync.

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202329)

Desk is absolutely needed for conference calls--my deskphone is IP, but its call quality is far superior to my PC. In addition, anything I'm doing on the PC does not affect the phone call...

I recently have had customers who preferred the phone...

We have a few remote people, there is NO WAY they can communicate as effectively via IM as they can via phone... so it's needed for them...

That said--I was just away for 2 weeks with no out of office message up, I had ZERO phone calls during that time. In addition, clearly the phone could be replaced by the PC if the call quality was improved... but until then, having a little mostly headless computer sitting on my desk that does a very good of placing IP voice calls is still needed.

No, but... (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202339)

...I consider my VOIP soft-phone as something apart from a traditional base-and-handset phone. Setting aside that difference, I still need a "phone". First of all, my position requires that people (vendors, customers, etc.) be able to reach me via the PSTN, and I, them. Second, I need the features afforded by our PBX. Other people in my office need those features even more. Yes, Skype is superior for a certain subset of telephony tasks, and I use that too, but it is not a phone system, and it's too expensive as a PSTN gateway, compared to other VOIP-PSTN gateway services. Corporate IM? Same thing. It offloads a LOT of communication that used to require a phone call, but there are times when the nature of the conversation is impeded by the need to type.

Yes (1)

Marksolo (970704) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202375)

Considering my work has yet to upgrade from winxp and the most restrictive IT policy ever, yes.

Getting new software requires serveral memos, even if the software is free and the computer network is too slow and has no quality of service.

Instead we invest in $80,000+ telecom suites for our advanced telecom needs. The upside is the telephone network is great.

Not every desk (1)

OMA1981 (706426) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202387)

We have roughly 350 employees. We use MS Lync with a softphone available on every client through a USB headset. We also have a handful of physical phones distributed throughout our office which can also be easily moved around. Users can simply dial out on the phones, forward their client to the phone, or even log into the phone and make it their own for a few minutes.

The biggest question is will your office culture embrace this solution or will it be a thorn in the side of productivity.

Trump (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202409)

Donald Trump says, "Email is for wimps." Sometimes face to face is right. Sometimes the phone is. Other times email or IM or SMS. Get over it. Be technology agnostic and use the right tool for the right job.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202433)

In my current job we have desk phones - for me it's the first time since the 90's. I had already forgotten how damn ANNOYING it is when people sit at their desks yelling into their phones all day, I'm supposed to get some code written here. In a modern civilized environment, people would take their mobile and go into the corridor to discuss who is going to pick up Aunt May from the hospital and what to buy from the grocery store on the way home.

I don't want a phone. (1)

anon mouse-cow-aard (443646) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202437)

where I work we have real phones in the worst sense. Voice Mail is a distinct system, with limited storage, and not properly synchronized so the timing is always a little off. I've tried traditional headsets but they always seem to be cordless, and on 400$ devices they always seem to have issues with their batteries and charging (even though they sit for 16 hours a day on a charger.) I hate the old stuff.

I have a headset for the computer anyways. I want my voice mails in my email anyways. The headset is very comfortable, cabled to the computer for reliability, rather than having battery issues like a smartphone, it can follow me, when I VPN. I can re-direct to a smart phone if needed. Forget the phone, just let me use standard SIP applications to connect to a bridge. (I'm on Linux... but the employer is windows oriented, so I can see this turning into 'thou shalt use myfavorite windows app' through simple bloody-minded thoughtlessness.) for conference calling, I have speakers, just need a decent mic on the desk.

My company uses personal cell phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202445)

Gives everyone $50 a month and tells us to use our cell phones.

Fixed line in IM/Mobile :) (1)

nomaddamon (1783058) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202447)

We have few hundred employees and 2 actual physical fixed-line phones (at reception)
But we do have "fixed line numbers" for pretty much everyone

All is done over VOIP with intelligent back-end,
when someone calls me on my fixed number (or some call is redirected to me):
* If I'm behind my laptop, company IM rings in laptop with options to redirect/hold/answer via headset/answer via mobile/etc.
* If I'm away from my laptop (IM status auto changes after 5 min of inactivity), my phone and laptop ring at the same time (laptop silently), so i can answer it from my phone or do whatever from laptop
* If my Outlook/IM status is "DND" or my workday is over then i get a e-mail notification and the call is redirected to reception / help-desk (depending on caller)

Having and actual physical phone on my desk would mean that i miss 70% of calls (i have to move around the office quite a lot) and it would take up valuable desk space (where would i put my Chuck Norris motivational picture then :))

Best tool for the job is a toolbox (1)

Blue23 (197186) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202459)

What I'm interested in is how the collection of communication you have ties together. Say a call comes in to the receptionist, how does she transfer it to you? How do you transfer a call to a coworker, or conference them in on an existing call?

Do you have separate work and personal mobile phones, so when on vacation (or after hours for those that don't have to pick up anyway) you can leave the work phone behind? And of course set your voicemail message to direct callers to the appropriate coworkers who are covering.

That's what I like about a wealth of communication devices, they each have their own strengths. My company desk phone is VOIP, connects using out intranet to all of the other branches (including internationally) and has robust transfer, conference and directory as well as a host of features my mobile does not. In the same way my mobile has features my desk phone doesn't, and we have a corporate IM and email as well, letting me use the best tool for the job.

Any yes/no question headline (0)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year and a half ago | (#42202461)

Can be answered 'no'. Lets move on.

I work in a call centre... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42202467)

...so it certainly does help.

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