Is the desk phone dead?

Blog by: Phil Curwood, Chief Technology Officer, Adept4 - 27-Mar-2019

78% of people in the UK own a smartphone, with that percentage rising to 95% amongst 16 to 24-year-olds, according to Ofcom. The regulator’s research also suggests that people in the UK check those devices every 12 minutes of the waking day on average.

Meanwhile, millennials are increasingly shifting away from a reliance on landlines in their own homes – research from 2014 was already suggesting that around two-thirds of the demographic in the US lived in homes without landlines.

The question for businesses, then – is the desk phone dead?

Converging factors, continued decline

Certainly a number of factors are contributing to desk phones’ decline beyond the tendency for younger demographics – and therefore new entrants to the workplace – to prefer mobile devices. 

More broadly, working styles have undergone a significant transition over recent years, with hotdesking and other collaborative approaches increasingly being practiced withinthe office, and more and more remote working taking place outside the office. These changing working styles mean an increased demand for unified communications and blended approaches to corporate communications, so that staff can access their key applications and data from anywhere – they certainly don’t mean an increased demand for traditional desk phones.

A less well-known but nevertheless influential factor is that the proportion of planned as opposed to ad-hoc phone calls in workplaces is growing. In other words, whilst scheduled calls, including group calls, are still valued (and in many cases more valuable than they ever were, thanks to the rise of collaboration software), ad-hoc calls are being eschewed in favour of communication channels like email and instant messaging. Employees increasingly ignore or reject unfamiliar calls, and choose alternative channels for quick messages and questions.

Then there is cost to consider. More and more organisations are waking up to the reality that spending large sums of money purchasing, managing, troubleshooting and upgrading physical desk phones is a false economy when employees are increasingly using alternative communication methods.

Not dead yet

Nevertheless, when employees areat their desks – even if that proportion of their time is decreasing – a desk phone is still generally preferable to a mobile device. It is more comfortable, particularly for longer periods. Meanwhile, there are still plenty of working contexts where a phone tied to a particular role or workstation rather than an individual is valuable, such as in the healthcare and aviation sectors.

The best way forward, then, looks set to be a converged approach, whereby users can switch between devices seamlessly according to whether they are at a desk, on the move or in a location remote from the office. In other words, organisations should embrace unified communications.

This is why so many organisations are choosing to migrate from ISDN lines to SIP trunking, a voice over IP (VoIP) protocol which enables both voice and data to be transmitted via a single internet-based infrastructure. This forms the foundation for a consolidated approach to voice, email, instant messaging, videoconferencing and more, allowing for more productive collaboration when employees do speak on the phone, and more appropriate choices when an alternative communication method will work better.

The desk phone is not dead, but it is certainly evolving. Forward-thinking organisations should be examining factors like the cellular coverage throughout their premises and the deployment of unified communications platforms such as Microsoft Teams in order to really make the most of their desk phones. 


Topics: Telephony, Voice, cloud telephony

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