Before we migrated to our work-from-home arrangement, most people in our office had fairly boring looking desk phones. But the group of employees whose job it is to answer incoming telephone calls on our main office telephone number each had a fairly fancy phone as shown at right. Such a phone has what phone geeks call a “busy lamp field”. (In our office we call it a “sidecar”.) When we migrated to our work-from-home arrangement, we decided to splurge and give each employee a phone with a sidecar. Why did we do this?
What a busy lamp field is. To explain why we splurged on these fancy phones for every person in the firm, I should say a bit about what a busy lamp field is. A busy lamp is a light on the phone that tells you the status of some other phone extension. In a modern-day phone the light will be an LED that is able to change color. On our phones, green means the extension is not in use and red means the person is using their phone. A large backlit LCD screen uses text legends to indicate the name of the person (or function) associated with a particular extension. The LCD screen shows lots of detail such who is calling you or who is calling someone else.
The red or green LED is part of a push button. The push button is very handy. It can serve as a “speed dial” button so that you simply look for somebody’s name on the LCD screen and punch the button next to their name and it will dial their extension.
For the people whose job it is to handle incoming calls to the main telephone number of the firm, the push button is very handy as part of the routine for transferring an incoming call to a particular person. Likewise if you are setting up a three-way call the push button is part of the routine for setting up the three-way call.
In our office we set up some of the BLF (busy lamp field) buttons to accomplish particular functions rather than monitoring phone extensions. There is a button I can push to connect with one tap to our firm’s conference calling system. A button can be configured as a speed-dial to somebody’s cell phone.
Why we splurged. Having described what a BLF is, I will now describe why we splurged on a phone with a sidecar for every person in the firm. Our chief reason for this is simply that when you are working from home, you get sort of lonely and you don’t really know who is doing what right now. You don’t know who is busy and who might have a spare moment to talk.
The BLF lets you see that somebody just got off the phone. If you were thinking of giving that person a call, this might mean that you choose to give them another minute to refill their coffee cup before calling them on the phone.
The BLF is part of our effort to help people feel connected with the other people in the office. Another part of this effort is our “in and out” status monitor.
The phone is the Grandstream GXP2140 phone (product web page). The phone plus one sidecar costs about $165. We think it’s well worth it.
In your office, how did you decide who gets a phone with a BLF? Please post a comment below.