Last updated on March 20, 2023 at 02:55 pm
The Deskless Workforce: Everything You Need to Know
The deskless workforce makes up 80% of the global workforce according to research from Emergence. That is over 2.7 billion people working in jobs that aren’t behind a desk. Despite making up the vast majority of the workforce, deskless workers are often left out of critical conversations about the way we work. As such, companies also mainly focus on tools and technology for their office or deskbound workers rather than for deskless teams. This needs to change.
What is the Deskless Workforce?
Deskless workers are employees who do not sit behind a desk or use a computer for work. So, nearly every industry has deskless workers as a core part of the workforce. This includes:
- Healthcare Workers: The majority of workers in healthcare systems are deskless. From doctors and nurses to non-clinical staff in hospitals and clinics, these employees work on their feet to care for patients.
- Manufacturing Workers: Employees who work in manufacturing plants/facilities as well as line workers are all types of deskless employees in manufacturing.
- Logistics Workers: Truckers, distribution center workers, dock workers, plant supervisors, and many others all make up the logistics deskless workforce. While there are supporting teams in offices in logistics and manufacturing, most workers in these fields are deskless.
- Hospitality Workers: Hospitality is a huge industry driven by workers in the field. Most of these workers are what we would describe as “frontline workers” because they are the face of your company and actually interact with your customers. This includes restaurant staff, casino employees, hotel employees, and retail workers.
- Government and Municipality Workers: While there are many government employees who do sit at a desk for their jobs, many workers within local governments and municipalities work in field positions within the community.
Why Are Deskless Workers Important?
Deskless workers are incredibly important to the success of a company for a few key reasons:
- They make up the majority of the workforce. If you can deploy scalable solutions to improve retention, productivity, and performance for the largest segment of your workforce, the return on investment is greater. And we know that retention is high in frontline positions—largely because they do not always have clear communication and the tools they need to succeed. So, focusing on deskless employees can make a big difference for your bottom line.
- Their roles are key to business success. Without the employees in these frontline and deskless roles, our businesses would cease to function. We need delivery drivers and line workers to literally keep the lights on. So, if we do not start prioritizing their needs, our businesses will continue to suffer.
- They are knowledgeable, skilled workers. One thing you often hear is deskbound/office workers being called “Knowledge Workers” or “white collar workers.” And then the deskless workforce is often referred to as “blue-collar workers” or “unskilled laborers.” We actually think this is highly misguided and damaging language to describe the deskless workforce. Employees in these positions have skills and knowledge that is critical to operational success and should be treated as such.
What Challenges Do Deskless Employees Face in the Workplace?
The huge emphasis on deskbound workers, which completely overshadows the frontline, is one of the biggest challenges facing the deskless workforce.
A great example of this was during the COVID-19 pandemic when office workers became remote workers. Nearly everything about that conversation was about the struggles of being a remote worker, which ultimately became the “return to work” conversation. But through all of that, frontline workers who were putting their lives at risk every day were hardly talked about.
This preference for the deskbound worker permeates down and impacts many other aspects of a deskless employees’ day-to-day. That includes:
- Access to Technology. Deskless workers might have access to shared workstation computers or kiosks. They often have signage in a breakroom (but we all know this cannot be the only channel for an employee to receive training and information). But they likely do not have a corporate email address or intranet access. So the two most widely used communication channels do not reach these employees.
- Resources. Because the deskless workforce has less access to technology and, therefore, communication, they also have fewer resources and tools to learn, develop, and do their jobs.
- Employee Benefits. Because of how we treat and think about non-desk workers, we often try to shortchange them. A common issue in restaurants, for example, is not giving these employees enough hours to even qualify for employee benefits.
- Employee Experience. All these other factors, as well as the inherent safety risks in many deskless jobs, ladder up to a poor employee experience.
What Are the Best Ways to Communicate With the Deskless Workforce?
Because deskless workers are inherently harder to reach, companies have to invest in better, mobile-first solutions for employee communication.
Luckily, there are now more channels available to businesses than ever before. The best communication channels for deskless workers include:
- Employee Apps. This is a great primary channel for communication because it’s interactive, supports multimedia content, allows for selective push notifications, and has robust analytics to measure success.
- Texting. Texting is a good secondary channel for communication to help supplement something like an employee communication app. Texts are good ways to remind employees of important dates or training to be completed. But because they aren’t interactive and don’t support many file types, they can be a little limited if it’s your only internal communication solution.
- Digital Signage. If possible, exchange your printed signs posted in break rooms for digital signs. These signs are easier to keep current and to share text-based messages in a slightly more engaging way. This is another example of a good secondary channel for the deskless workforce.
- Frontline Managers. Are possibly the most important communication tool for frontline workers. But deskless managers need a little more help and training to be effective communicators, so make sure you invest in their training and development.
How Can You Improve the Employee Experience for Frontline Workers?
Ultimately, we want to provide a positive employee experience for our deskless teams. This will help with employee retention, employee engagement, and overall worker productivity. To improve EX for frontline workers focus on:
- Creating direct channels of communication to your deskless teams.
- Frontline manager communication skills.
- Considering expanding employee benefits for frontline teams.
- Increasing the frequency and regularity of recognition for deskless employees.
- Gathering deskless employee feedback on a regular basis and acting on it.
How Does theEMPLOYEEapp Help Companies Connect With Deskless Teams?
theEMPLOYEEapp was literally made to help solve the challenges companies face when trying to reach, connect, and communicate with the deskless workforce. We are a technology solution that allows companies to reach employees who do not have company email addresses and do not use a computer for their jobs.
The features and functionality we develop are intentionally designed to support the needs of a corporate communications team as well as their deskless employees. But we also have an employee intranet to ensure our solution is as easily accessible for deskbound, office workers.