Will COVID Zoom Kill the Campus Desk Phone?

Post-pandemic academic communications.

April 7, 2021

Has COVID-Zoom finally killed off the campus desk phone?

Pre-pandemic, the only way to get rid of campus office desk phones was to pry them out of people's cold, dead hands. The very idea of getting rid of particular 145-year-old technology was a no-go zone.

Answer me this. How many times have you participated in a university-related work phone call in the past year? If you are like me, the answer is "very few."

Do you miss people cold calling you? Long for those cold calls from vendors? Nowadays, if we want to talk to someone, we Zoom.

There is even a feature in Zoom called Meet Now (Instant Meeting) that sort of acts like a phone call.

After what will be a year and a half of not using our campus desk phones, will we want to go back? If we can survive quite well without landlines during COVID, what is the argument now for keeping them?

Here is what I think might happen. Faculty will keep their desk phones. Staff might be more willing to give them up.

Staff work on Zoom. Faculty teach on Zoom. There is a difference.

What would happen if some brave (or foolish) president was willing to kill the campus phone system?

First, this will never happen. The blowback for getting rid of desk phones wouldn't be worth the financial savings.

But go with the thought experiment. Based on our COVID experience, I'd say that nobody would miss the desk phone after a year or two. We'd all adjust. Am I wrong?

A campus without desk phones would have more Zoom meetings, but it would also be a place of more drop-ins. If an email is not called for, and we can't make a phone call (because they took away the phones), we might choose to walk over to a colleague's office.

Pre-COVID, a phoneless university was almost unimaginable. Nowadays, that is our reality.

Will we really be returning our pre-COVID ways of communicating?

How much longer will the physical phone on the campus desk survive?

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Joshua Kim

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