Usually “new” is code for “better,” but not always.

The world of work has changed, and nowhere is the change more striking than the traditional office desk (as we can see in the Harvard Innovation Lab’s “The Evolution of the Desk” video). But do these new ideas and technologies actually improve our work?

It’s up for debate. To add to the conversation, here are at least three old-fashioned ways of doing business that are (in some ways) superior to the new tech we use today.


1. Pick Up the Phone

I have a confession. Sometimes (a lot of times), I set my office phone to “Do Not Disturb” so that when I receive a call, it will go straight to voicemail. I then respond to the voicemail—via email. Like many others who grew up on email and the internet, I just don’t like talking on the phone.

That said, when I need to get something done ASAP, I know the phone is the way to go. When you call someone, it means business, and it usually means that people respond. Communication can be more nuanced, there is less room for misunderstanding, and everyone is on the same page at the same time. But the big point here is that calling someone is just faster. So, if a quick response is what you need, pick up the phone—because, really, how many people actually care or even notice that you’ve marked an email as “Urgent?”


2. Go Back to Your Office

Fact: Every hip startup has an open office. The idea is that an open layout will allow for team bonding, a more organic process for idea generation, and more motivated and productive employees in general. All this sounds great, so it makes sense that there’s buy-in from innovative and open-minded companies.

Unfortunately, as Maria Konnikova reports for the New Yorker, an open office doesn’t do that—any of it. In fact, you’re far better off in your stodgy private office. According to a study done by psychologists from the University of Calgary, an open office lowers attention span, productivity, creativity, and even general job satisfaction. So, given the option, stick with an office that has walls.


3. Take Handwritten Notes

Typing up your notes has loads of benefits: It’s faster, the notes become searchable, and, let’s be real, your notes are probably significantly more legible when typed. But, if you’re thinking about the big picture, ultimately everything is more efficient if you’re actually able to remember what your notes are on.

And that’s precisely why handwriting is still superior to typing your notes—according to Princeton psychological scientist, Pam Mueller, handwriting helps you remember not just facts, but also abstract concepts. So, the next time you’re tempted to whip out your laptop during a meeting, resist the urge and stick with traditional pen and paper.



Technology and the willingness to try out new ideas has obviously helped the workplace become more productive, convenient, and effective in most situations. But it would be reckless to assume anything new is automatically better. Sometimes it’s worth it to go back to the basics.


Photo of phone courtesy of Shutterstock.