Chris Carmichael Blog: Throw Out Your Phone!

Several months ago we tossed out almost all the desk phones at CTS Offices. Instead of dialing an extension, you have to walk to someone’s desk to have a conversation. Initially it seemed archaic to some people, but it’s changed the culture in our office and I really think we stumbled onto something very interesting. What if we all did away with desk phones?

Our decision to do away with desk phones was partly based on the fact that coaches are rarely at their desks. Some had two cell phones: one for business and one for personal calls. That seemed silly, so we figured out a way for coaches to receive both business and personal calls using their cell phone during business hours, while respecting their ability to have time away from work-related calls when they’re not working. As we anticipated, it has made it much easier for the coaches to deliver top-quality customer service because they can be more responsive to their athletes, especially when they are out of town and away from the office at a cycling or triathlon training camp.

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The unanticipated benefits are what have been surprising – and more significant.  When we got rid of the coaches’ desk phones we also got rid of almost all of the other desk phones used by our staff. We still have a handful, but that’s it. Here’s what I’ve noticed over the past 9 months:

  1. Friendlier environment: People are more cordial, more polite, and more considerate in person. Basically, it’s easier to be a grumpy curmudgeon from the privacy of your office. And getting people out from behind their desks further increases personal interactions as people pass one another in the halls, etc. But instead of an increase in time wasted in water-cooler gossiping, what we’ve seen is that even through quick interactions in passing, people get to know each other and relate to each other a little bit better than they did before. And that helps when it’s time to put groups of people together for projects.
  2. Fewer misunderstandings: If you were to arrange ways we communicate on a scale of “most likely to lead to a miscommunication”, from most likely to least likely, I think it would look like this: Tweet, text, email, phone, in person. It is very difficult to correctly pick up on a person’s tone in short written communications. And many struggle to communicate effectively in writing, regardless of the length of the piece or the complexity of the subject. On the phone, we’re multitasking. In person, people are more engaged in the conversation, more focused on the subject, and more likely to pick up on nonverbal cues that convey understanding and agreement, or confusion and frustration.
  3. Less Us vs. Them mentality: The more that people work in isolation, or even in isolated groups, the more you breed a culture of Us vs. Them,  Management vs. Staff, Marketing vs. Production, etc. When Marketing has to walk over to Production to talk about what’s going on, and you’re already in a supportive and friendly working environment, the conversation is between teammates instead of between opponents. 
  4. Better ideas: Some of the best solutions come from the guy who chimes in from across the room. Sure, some business conversations are best kept private, but as much as possible, open conversations promote transparency and provide more opportunity for collaboration.
  5. More movement: We recently got the new Motorola MOTOACTV, an innovative fitness tracker with GPS, Ant+ compatibility, and a lot more. We ran a simple test with CTS Editorial Director Jim Rutberg. One day he primarily stayed in his office working on a writing/editing project. The next day was a normal day that consisted of meetings, content production, and whatever it is that Rutty does. Both days encompassed all steps from breakfast to bedtime, including the workday. The difference? The day he worked alone at his desk, he took 6673 steps. On the “normal” workday he took 8820 steps. That’s an increase of nearly 2000 steps, which equates to about 1 mile. That’s not going to impact Rutty’s health very much because he’s already quite active, but just think how beneficial it could be on a larger scale – for weight management, diabetes prevention, and cardiac risk factors – if people started walking 1 or more additional miles each workday!

I realize there are businesses that need desk phones and that what works for my coaching company isn’t applicable for the entire economy, but I can absolutely tell you my workplace is friendlier, productivity is up, and my employees are more engaged. There’s no way we’re going back. Join the In-Person Revolution!

Have a great weekend!

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems


Comments 3

  1. How did you encourage people to engage f2f rather than email? There is now such a preference for email and there are way more issues with miss communication there. I keep encouraging calls.

    1. Our office is relatively small, so for us it takes more time to write the email than it does to go talk to the person. This is especially true when you want to get something done quickly, because there’s no back-and-forth delay from waiting for emails. Plus, most of the people here are coaches. We talk to athletes all day long, and I think that has played a role in making this a successful transition.

      Jim Rutberg
      Coach, Editorial Director
      Carmichael Training Systems

  2. Well, DUH. Don’t take it as an insult. It just makes common sense, but I have never worked in an office. I like people, so I work and play with people.

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