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Architectural Firm Finds Headsets Improve Productivity and Value for UC-enabled Teams

Posted by Paul Desmond

Jan 15, 2015

And if you combine headsets with treadmills you get even more highly productive and healthy teams. 

We have previously extolled the virtues of a good headset in a UC environment, and how they boost factors including comfort and convenience. But combine a good headset with a quality UC environment and you can boost the productivity level of entire teams of workers.headset_productivity_treadmill_desk

At least, that was the experience at Interior Architects, a 30-year-old global architectural firm focused solely on interior spaces. While some 75 of its 400 employees work in the company’s San Francisco headquarters, the remainder are all over the globe. Most of them are designers, so they need to collaborate regularly with colleagues and clients, no matter where they may be.

That was proving difficult for a time because the company had a hodge-podge of different phone systems. Users saw no consistency in the communications experience as they talked with different people or as they worked out of offices other than their home base.

In 2012, the company decided to bring all employees under a single unified communications platform, namely Microsoft Lync. The thinking was that Lync would simplify tasks such as scheduling meetings while integrating telephony capabilities with other applications. And it would work with both internal employees and Lync users outside the company, enabling IA to improve the way its designers and other employees worked with clients.

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Now, prior to the move to UC, most IA employees used traditional telephone handsets. But Arnold Bautista, director of information technology and senior associate at IA, knew that headsets would help employees get the most out of the UC experience – and improve productivity.  

The company wound up selecting some headsets from Jabra along with a Jabra Bluetooth and USB speakerphone, which works with PCs, smartphones and tablets. Today, there’s no sign of a handset at IA; the company is a 100% softphone environment with everyone using headsets or speakerphones.

“I expected some push back when we started removing the physical [handsets],” Bautista said. “However, the quality and ease of use of the Jabra headsets made it easy for our employees to transition. We were really blown away about the products, including the speakerphones.”

Jabra had some hard data to back up its contention that headsets would improve productivity for IA employees, having commissioned a study a few years earlier by Dr. Max Blumberg of Goldsmiths College, University of London, on the benefits of headset use vs. handset use in a UC environment.

Among his findings:

  • 55% of users employing handsets said it was either extremely difficult or just about manageable to multitask while 92% of participants using headsets found it manageable, easy or very easy to multitask.

  • 94.8% of participants found it easy or very easy to switch between different UC functions during calls, compared to just 42.5% with handsets 


  • 75% or more of respondents said it was easier to control features such as volume, mute, call hold, call initiation and call termination using a headset.

Want to improve worker productivity even more? Outfit employees with treadmill desks. That, at least, is according to a piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, under the headline, “Treadmill desks, wireless headsets make workers better, U study finds.”

While there’s precious little mention of headsets in the actual story, I suppose they are a prerequisite if you’re going to be working on a treadmill. As for the study, it was conducted by Avner Ben-Ner, a professor of Work and Organizations at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. For a year, the study followed 40 users at a local financial services company who regularly used treadmills instead of chairs:

What they found was that treadmills increased productivity by nearly 10 percent. “That’s a substantial increase,” Ben-Ner said.
Workers were not forced, like rowers in a Roman war galley, to walk all day. Walking on the treadmill was voluntary — as was standing at their desk or sitting on an exercise ball. Still, even though workers could sit all day if they wished, most did not.

Maybe you’re not quite ready for the kind of commitment a treadmill represents – and it may be more than a little distracting for others if you’re on a videoconference while going through your paces – but a headset seems like a smart investment.



Topics: Voice, Business Case, Employees, Unified Communications,, Adoption, Best Practices