I learned yesterday what a softphone is after getting the office memo that our landlines are getting taken away. The landlines have actually been VOIP phones for years but now we will use only a cell, and/or get a yet-to-be revealed device that will enable calling through the laptop.
Keeping up with new technology is necessary and I get the desire to cut costs. But for those of us with dispersed work teams around the world, a solid phone connection is critical. A majority of the day's hours are often spent on conference calls. Cell phones are great, but at times drop calls, have bad signals, require being near an outlet for longer calls, and can involve a hot battery sitting on your person or nearby. Office lines are better, except the environments are challenging with today's open work stations- cube farms, shared desks. It can be hard to hear the people on the phone with the noise around you, and you can't speak more loudly without bothering other colleagues.
I don't know how the softphone will be. Anyone with feedback? I can see a few potential consequences.
1. Less reason to go to the office. If I'm using a cell phone anyway, why sit somewhere with other people yapping on the phone all around me, rather than my living room? I'd like it if my company offered more meeting rooms for us to use, but that isn't the direction it's headed.
2. Less meetings! If everyone has the same challenge- getting a clear signal, staying plugged in before the battery dies again- I'd rather have 5-10 minute tagups instead of one hour meetings. Send me your materials, exchange questions/decisions needed, and let's cut to the chase. Many of us would prefer this anyway but in some companies the meeting culture is so strong.
3. What does this mean for data networks? If large companies are moving the bulk of their communications to wireless (or software, but more realistically, people will use the cell phones), it'll have some impact on signal traffic. Companies aren't likely to pay for home internet connections for us, so wireless
Of course, the office is still be a good place for in-person meetings and the never-replaceable face-to-face connection with others, when the people are in the same location. But I work just as much with people on other continents. I'm all for going in to work a few times a week max if that's the end result!