It’s been a fixture on the desktops in offices around the world for decades. For generations of workers, the landline desk phone was the way to communicate with colleagues and customers, partners, vendors, family and friends from the workplace. It even evolved over the years—adding so many features and capabilities that making actual calls is just a part of what many desk phones can do—while continuing to occupy prime real estate on the desktop.
But that’s all changing. The cell phone has made sure of it. Since Apple first introduced the iPhone 10 years ago, the smartphone has become an indispensable device, rarely far from the user and used not only for calls, but for texting, chatting, accessing the internet, downloading apps and any number of other tasks. Its popularity has spread quickly from consumers and into the office, forcing businesses to adopt bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.
As more employees bring their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices into the workplace, it begs the question: Is it time to cut the cord and eliminate desk phones from the office?
Most people are already going wireless at home
The move away from landline phones is already happening. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Health released in September, 50.8 percent of U.S. households are completely wireless when it comes to phone service. Another 39.4 percent had both landline and wireless service. In addition, while 50.5 percent of U.S. adults had only wireless service, that number was 60.7 percent for children.
Businesses will want to pay attention of that last number, because those kids who are growing up in a completely wireless world will be hitting the workforce in only a few years, and they will be coming in with a 100 percent wireless view of the world. Businesses are seeing that now. In a recent survey of 1,000 office workers that Zinwave conducted this year, we found that in the workplace, cell phones have surpassed landline-based desk phones in the list of preferred communications tools, ranking behind only email.
And while cell phone use at work is growing among most generations of employees, it’s rising fastest among Millennials and younger workers, who make up an increasingly larger proportion of the workforce. In the survey, more than 46 percent of Millennials said they are using their cell phones now much more than they were even a year ago. In the coming years, as Millennials and the generation behind them account for a larger percentage of U.S. workers, the use of smartphones and other mobile devices will only grow.
Some companies already realize that desk phones don’t make sense
As all this happens, company executives will need to consider how long they want to keep desk phones in their offices. They’re an expensive tool that look to be used less and less in the near future. Already some companies have broken ties. KPMG has taken away the landline phones from the desks of its more than 5,000 workers in Canada. Even smaller companies, like Civis Analytics in Chicago, understand that their growing numbers of Millennial workers prefer mobile phones and other communication tools over desk phones.
As this migration away from landlines accelerates, it puts a greater emphasis on the need for reliable cellular connectivity in the workplace. Workers increasingly expect the same level of connectivity at work as they see in their personal lives, and the issue becomes one of not only ensuring high employee productivity but also making sure that the company can keep and attract talented workers.
Switching to cell phones requires providing reliable indoor cellular connectivity
So what should a company look for? A distributed antenna system (DAS) is the best option for ensuring a strong cellular signal throughout the building. However, not all DAS solutions are the same. There are a number of key features in a DAS system that companies should consider, maybe the most important is that their DAS is a multi-carrier solution.
Most companies have already abandoned the company-wide cellular contracts. They are opting for the BYOD policy that allows employees to use their own devices, and that requires supporting the cellular signal of all the major carriers and a DAS solution that supports all the those frequencies out of the box.
While all DAS providers will tell you that they can support the signals of all carriers, what they won’t tell you is that supporting the signals of each carrier will require an individual hardware investment. But with a solution that supports not only all the major carriers but also frequencies used by first responders in place from day one, a user can add another carrier or frequencies without having to buy additional hardware. At most there will be some engineering tweaks.
As we’ve outlined here, the way we are communicating is rapidly changing. It’s become a mobile world, and the cell phone is replacing the desk phone as the preferred communication tool in the office. But while the DAS solution you choose must be able to deliver reliable connectivity for those mobile devices, it also must support what’s on the horizon, such as the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communications that will continue to grow in importance. The right DAS solution will be ready for what is coming in the future.
Mobile devices are becoming the way communication in the workplace is done. Given that, companies are going to be faced with the question of when to finally let go of the desk phone. As that decision is made, companies also will want to make sure they have the right solution in place to ensure reliable cellular connectivity throughout the workplace.
Learn more about how our communication preferences are shifting in our 2017 Workplace Connectivity Survey.