As pretentious as this sounds, I am writing this article from a bean bag on top of some fake grass in our new chill-out zone. No I do not work for a Google type enterprise, I work within a small consultancy company in the UK. there is only around 20 of us, but we have taken inspiration from the tech world (and media coverage of it) by bringing our office into the 21st century. As a tech company we want to attract the best talent possible, and it is this kind of office environment that will (apparently) help with that. This leads me onto my learning today, the physically separate telephone handset is probably going to die out within the workplace very soon.
We have already seen this in the home, personally I have not used a "landline" phone for several years now. In fact I don't even know where mine is after our 3 year old took a shine to it and we had to unplug it completely from the socket. As I say, the mobile generation (a.k.a. Generation X/Y or Millennials) are now entering the workplace and they are not prepared to take a backwards leap and begin manually dialling and searching for numbers to call people on. In fact they often are not even prepared to talk to people at all, they want to message them instead. If they need to speak to someone, why wouldn't they video chat with them?
It is this mentality that is drawing a noose around the traditional office phone on the desk. And I love it.
At first it was hard for us to except but several months ago many of us began removing our desk phones, and instead using only our 3CX softphones and mobile apps to communicate. A softphone is a shortened word for software phone, a.k.a a PC/MAC app that works on your laptop, very much like Skype but on a private inter-company level.
The first thing we noticed was the desk space we regained, when did these desk phones get so big!? After that some of us realised that we needed some decent USB headsets to handle the audio and microphone elements of a softphone. Some of my (younger) colleagues couldn't believe that I didn't have a decent USB headset already; "how do you Skype with Sarah at XYZ", "what about webinars with ABC? . . sigh. I tried to explain I just used my telephone but this again was a sign of times. So with our new USB wireless headsets in hand (or on our heads) we began our softphone adventure.
Instantly we noticed the feeling of engagement with our colleagues. Using the softphone drew us in to the benefits of presence and chat, along with video between our remote colleagues, non of which could be done using our stand alone handsets. We then took the project mobile and began utilising the mobile app that comes with our 3CX unified communication solution. Which is how I am able to stay connected from the fake grass as we speak! It has been 6 months since I used a desk phone, and I won't be going to back to using one either. Every single function is easier and quicker on a softphone, from placing a call on hold, to making transfers, to clicking to dial numbers.
It isn't just our internal project that makes me think the deskphone is on the road to extinction, we are beginning to consult on more and more projects where there is no hardware involved in the solution. The clients are engaged with the concept of softphones, and can clearly see the benefits across the business, not just financially, but also ability to support and train end users easier as well. The fact that most of these clients are also led by Millennials also helps I suppose.
But what if you don't want to wear a USB headset make and receive calls? This is where the 3CX mobile app comes in. It now has PUSH technology built into both the Android and iOS app right out of the box, which means the app launches itself whenever someone rings my extension. This is something I also have the power to enable and disable if I don't want to be disturbed. Using the 3CX mobile app also brings the debate over BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) into the frame. One of our latest projects invlved a client who is planning to replace his current ageing PBX with an 800 user system, of which only 10 users will have physical phones. The remaining 790 are going to be using their own mobiles phones to use the 3CX app on, as well as supplementing the heavier users with USB headsets for when they are at their desk making multiple calls.
RIP beloved office deskphones everywhere, regardless of your name, whether you be Mitel, Avaya, Siemens, Panasonic, Polycom, Cisco . . you will not be forgotten, but I'm not sure you will be missed either.