Thursday, November 03, 2005

Losing the Office Phone

About a month ago I had the phone in my office removed. The number was one digit off from both maternity and a nurse's station at the U of C hospitals and if you Googled "Chicago Ballroom Dancing" my office phone number came up. About 90% of the phone calls were wrong numbers and I had gotten to the point of not answering the phone unless I recognized the Caller ID.

I could have had the number changed but I spend enough time outside the office (at TTI, other universities, working at home) that calling me at the office was not a reliable way to reach me. So I just eliminated the office phone and put my mobile number on my home page and in the university directory.

I don't rack up lots of minutes; we are primarily an email-based community and I get on average about one work related phone call a week. I made the change not because I want to use the phone less, rather to make myself more accessible. Our community relies on email too much, there are sometimes the old telephone still comes in handy.

  • Calendar coordination.
  • Convincing someone to do something. It's much harder to say "no" on the phone than on email.
  • Sensitive information. Email leaves an electronic trail and one little typo in the email address can send your scathing comments who knows where.
  • Some people like to use the phone for research. I prefer email because it forces you to think about what to write and you get a record of the discussion. But if there is a technical point you disagree on, a phone call can often quickly resolve the issue.
  • Handling a disagreement, particularly when one or both sides are emotional over the issue. This situation is even better handled in person, if possible.
  • Catching up. At the end of a phone call we often talk about other things going on in our lives. Happens far less in email.
More and more of our community are beginning to use instant messaging for many of these purposes. Also with VOIP services like Skype becoming more popular, the rest of you might lose your office phones sooner than you expect.


  1. Ah, the good old telephone.

  2. and let the strains (eyes and muscles) begin. Blackberry + Treo = headaches...