Remember the good old days when everything was so much more straightforward?
We played music on vinyl records, took photos that needed developing and had to agree ahead of time on a place and time when meeting friends.
At work, we sent memos, kept files in steel cases and spoke on phones that needed to be plugged into a landline…. hmmm, perhaps not everything has changed.
Let’s throwback to the office of the past through the eyes of a ‘vintage’ worker and see just how different it was. Let’s call her Beryl.
Beryl works in an office and shares a small room with five other phone operators, and a switchboard the size of a bus shelter. Taking calls, connecting calls and putting people through to other switchboards may make a great exercise regime for those arms of hers, but it is constantly prone to human error and the distracting whim of the tea trolley.
Luckily for Beryl, she’s a go-getter and promotion gets her out of the switchboard and behind a secretarial desk (at this rate, she’ll be a boss by 1988). But now she’s juggling calls left, right and centre. Her boss has four telephone numbers, which apparently makes him easier to reach; not when they’re all stuck to Beryl’s desk they don’t.
It certainly doesn’t help much when he goes off to lunch all afternoon. As frustrated customers are left hanging on the line, Beryl becomes ambidextrous in the art of grappling phones whilst politely apologising.
And when the boss needs to make an urgent call when out of the office, the limitations of mobile working suddenly put him in a bit of a tight spot.
Thankfully, the days of such communications nightmares are long behind us.
Or are they?
The reality is the vast majority of UK businesses still operate with a phone system that is dependent on a landline connection. Whilst the days of the switchboard are firmly in the past, the limitations of the four office walls still persist.
Times have really moved on and it’s now possible to receive incoming calls to one number on any device and in any location. With advanced call handling and forwarding alongside mobile integration, anything is possible.
Vintage may be trendy, but an outdated business phone system would make even the most die-hard hipster blush. Perhaps it’s time to escape the headaches of the past and come back to the future of cloud-based communications technology?
Originally published Jul 14, 2016, updated Aug 12, 2020