Well, that happened quickly.
For decades, the desk phone was the tool for doing business. If a salesperson wanted to contact a customer, if an employee wanted to talk to a colleague, or if an executive after a long-running meeting had to call home, they did so on their desk phones. New features were constantly being added to the devices to make them even more corporate-friendly, from call waiting and call forwarding to caller ID, conference calling, electronic displays, improved audio and, in recent years, video capabilities. Even as PDAs—like Palm’s Centro—and later mobile phones—like any of the Blackberries—came onto the scene, the desk phone stood tall.
Then, 10 years ago, Apple introduced the iPhone, and things started rapidly changing. The iPhone introduced an intuitive, user-friendly touchscreen, a virtual keyboard and a fast-growing roster of apps delivered via the internet and aimed not only at consumers but also business users. It jumpstarted a global market that grew wildly and opened the floodgates to an array of competitors big and small, such as Samsung and Motorola. According to IDC, 347.4 million smartphones shipped in the first three months of this year, a 4.3 percent increase over the first quarter in 2016. Cisco Systems said that in 2016, the average smartphone usage worldwide jumped 38 percent over the previous year.
It’s not difficult to understand why. Smartphones are more than devices for making voice calls. As we’ve noted here before, they have become a key avenue to the outside world—the way people access the internet, grab data and applications from the cloud, plan their days, communicate through texts and video calls, check and send email, collect and listen to music, play games and watch videos, work and do business.
Smartphones are extraordinarily personal devices—constant companions and extensions of the users themselves—and have moved quickly from the personal to the professional world. People who have grown up with smartphones want to use those same devices in the workplace. They’re not content with corporate-issued mobile phones, much less desk phones, giving rise to the BYOD trend.
None of this is surprising. We see people on the street and in the office, in coffee shops and corporate boardrooms, in waiting rooms and on sales calls, speaking into their phones or with their heads down, reading their screens or furiously tapping away with their thumbs.
Now a new survey by Zinwave is putting hard numbers behind what we instinctively knew—that smartphones were changing the way we live and work. We surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. office workers about how they communicate with customers, colleagues, partners and vendors, and what stood out was how, in this increasingly mobile and cloud-centric world, cellphones have surpassed landline-based desk phones in the hierarchy of office communications tools.
Cellphones, driven by the rise of smartphones, rank only behind email as the preferred way to communicate, and that popularity is sure to increase as Millennials and younger workers increasingly make up a larger proportion of the workforce. More than 85 percent of all workers surveyed said they use cell phones at least on a weekly basis in the office. Almost 60 percent use their cellphones every day to make calls, and more than 52 percent send text messages daily at work. And most of this communication isn’t personal; it’s to clients, partners and vendors. There are other statistics from the survey related to chat tools and social media and other ways communications in the workplace are changing. You can read the survey report here. (link).
So what can businesses take away from this survey? How can they use the information? Again, they now have numbers to support the anecdotal understanding that mobile devices like cellphones and tablets are becoming widely used communications tools in the workplace. The majority of their employees increasingly depend on them to do their work and be productive, and that dependence will only grow as younger people move into the workforce. It should also highlight the importance of ensuring reliable in-building cellular connectivity to support these workers. It certainly is about productivity – if these are the tools people need to get work done, businesses need to ensure those tools are supported. But having strong, reliable cellular signals also ensures that companies can attract and retain the most talented workers. If employees are thwarted in their efforts by spotty connectivity, they’ll go elsewhere.
The world is increasingly mobile and connected, and the business world is no different. Smartphones have changed the way people live and how they work. It didn’t take long for smartphones to impact the workplace. Ten years is a blink of an eye. Cellphones have now overtaken desk phones, and the focus in communications is shifting from landlines to cellular connectivity. Our survey puts all of this in black-and-white, and gives businesses the tangible information they need to adapt to this new and fast-evolving reality.
Download the complete 2017 Office Communications Trends report for additional insights and suggestions on how to ensure your company is ready to support these new preferences.