True phone

True phone by cizake on Flickr

Picture the scene: a researcher and research director sat in an office around a faded cream plastic telephone with the headset lying upwards on the desk, listening to a call on speakerphone and taking turns to shout into the mouthpiece. The person on the other end of the line can’t seem to pick up the director’s voice so the researcher has to repeat everything the director says so that the caller can hear. Not exactly an ideal situation for a conference call is it? But things are much better than that nowadays aren’t they?

Well, I thought so. Until recently when I found myself in that situation (me being the researcher; the director being my boss). We moved offices a few weeks ago, but unfortunately our phone lines hadn’t been ported across and the line I was borrowing couldn’t call externally, which is a bit of a pain when 99% of our calls are external (the only internal calls I make are to report a problem to IT).

Oh well, not too much of a problem we thought, we can just use Skype instead. But my boss couldn’t get the microphone on his headset working (no idea why as it was fine in our old offices). Then I had a great plan to use the speakers on my monitor to hear the Skype call, but then I realised we had no microphone other than my tiny headset one (not great for two people to share!).

So we had to resort to locating a phone with a speaker function (fortunately there are numerous old phones from the previous occupants). This faffing took us about 40 minutes which cut our call down to a very short time. It certainly made for an interesting conversation, thank goodness the person we were calling was patient!

The funny thing is, if we’d both been working from home instead of in the office, we would have been able to make the call either by dialling into an external conference call number, or by using Skype. In fact the following week we had both planned to go into the office but realised we needed the phone at the same time for different calls, so my boss decided to work from home that day instead. Working from home definitely wins this time (although my home connection occasionally drops Skype calls so that’s not always perfect either).

Thankfully our phones have now been ported over so we also have working phone lines in the office, what a novelty!