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Will Coronavirus Be the Death of the Desk Phone?


Photo of desk phone
Image: chinnarach -
In many office environments, desk phones have been as ubiquitous as keyboards and mice — a trusted means of making and receiving voice calls. But then came the Big Quarantine, and employees who once worked mostly in office environments were sent home to work — without their two-piece, multibuttoned partner.
If your business is like many others, caught off guard by the sudden need to support work-from-home (WFH) environments, you hadn’t prepared for what it would take to keep phone-reliant employees connected. That probably means you quickly signed up for web-based hosted voice, or VoIP, service and forwarded office phone numbers so employees could now answer them at home.
Rather than the desk phone, WFH employees’ new friend is now the softphone loaded on a home computer or business laptop, or a smartphone app, and both will have taken a little getting used to.
Now, when their “phone” rings, employees must have their headset on or earbuds in place. Without a headset, if they utilize PC or phone speakers, they risk broadcasting the conversation to anyone within listening range. And they can’t just quickly grab that old trusty handset, as they run back to their desk from their kitchen snack in hand, because the boss is calling. If all they have at home is a wired headset, you might have already heard complaints about the whiplash incurred as they got up too quickly and forgot they were tethered to their computer. Perils abound!
Now that the newly remote workers have finally settled in at home, some in a bedroom, others at a kitchen or dining room table, kids and pets swirling around like mini tornados, they shout, “Can’t you see I’m working here?!” Many are likely dreaming about returning to the relative quiet and peace of the office. Wait, what? Did you ever think, in a million years, you would have employees clamoring to work from the office rather than the convenience of their homes?
But when everyone does finally return to that comforting place, where kids and pets are simply small two-dimensional images on a cubicle wall, will their desk phone still be there? If it is there, will it work?
With today’s WFH experiences, many businesses are now realizing the power of using hosted VoIP. So when the Big Quarantine ends, will you move to make your temporary fix permanent, doing away with the desk phone and instead relying on the softphone that comes with the service?
As they did when working at home, employees would still need a headset, but if they already had one at work, you might be able to get it working, possibly with a small adapter, on the new system. If your employees didn’t already have headsets, an inexpensive option is to just go with wired headsets, which can cost as little as $15 at any big box store. Employees might ask how you could possibly tether them that way — but you could remind them that their desk phone tether was even shorter than that new wired headset cord.
If you want employees to be untethered, plan to spend from $100 for either low-quality or refurbished wireless headsets to $500 for high-quality ones. Many of us have made the leap using wireless earbuds/mics for our personal mobile devices. But once employees experience the freedom of wireless while at work, they’ll quickly forget their old trusty two-piece, multibuttoned partner. They’ll take and make calls like real pros, pacing back and forth, sans cord strangulation.