What Is a Deskless Worker?

What Is a Deskless Worker?

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Deskless workers are workers who don’t have a traditional office setting or workspace assigned to them. Many deskless employees work in jobs that don’t traditionally require desks. This includes workers in the transportation and manufacturing industries and others who work at jobs that aren’t considered desk jobs.

Many deskless workers work in retail or in the restaurant industry, selling us products we need to live and serving us coffee, snacks, and meals.

There are a lot more deskless workers than those who work in office settings. According to Emergence, deskless workers make up about 80% of the global workforce.

Next read: Find out more about the demands of the deskless workforce

Technology for Deskless Workers

Out of the total global workforce, an estimated 2.7 billion workers don’t work in office settings. Despite this, the software industry has targeted most of their software products to office workers. This may be partially due to most software developers working desk jobs. Deskless workers often struggle to do their jobs with outdated technology or even paper-based solutions.

This is starting to change, however. In Emergence’s 2018 survey of IT decision-makers, they discovered that the majority were interested to invest in technology to make deskless workers’ jobs easier and increase productivity. Another survey revealed that 70% of deskless workers believe that more technology would improve their ability to do their jobs. Giving employees appropriate technology solutions could actually save the company money.

The deskless workforce deserves the convenience of deskless technologies, such as smartphone apps that help them do their jobs better. One example is delivery workers whose employers provide an app for scanning packages upon delivery and taking pictures to verify that the delivery was made.

Even though they do not work at desks, 83% of deskless workers were given desktop or laptop computers to do their jobs. Employers seem to be catching on, though, because 57% receive a smartphone or tablet from their employers. Only a small percentage were given new technologies such as smartwatches and drones.

About 60% of deskless employees feel that the technology they are given to do their jobs is unsatisfactory or could use improvement. Forty-four percent say that the software is slow, 14% say that it’s hard to use or understand, and 12% state that it does not allow for collaboration.

More than half of the deskless workers surveyed by Emergence claim to have used technologies that were not provided by their employers to help them do their jobs. Some of these deskless employees learned about those technologies from coworkers, while others proactively sought them out.

Seventy-eight percent of deskless workers consider what type of technology the employer has available when deciding whether to accept a new position. Employees value communications technology such as smartphones. They want to have technology available for productivity, operations, training, professional development, HR/benefits, and company culture.

Tip: Learn more about the possible solutions for training hands-on workers with the latest technologies. 

Flexibility of Deskless Workers

Flexibility in scheduling is often important for deskless employees, including frontline workers in restaurants and grocery stores. These workers often have work schedules that change daily or weekly.

Some employers use technology to help manage workers’ schedules, allowing them to request time off through an app or clock in and out with their smartphones. This is great for workers who travel straight from home to the job site. They can clock in when they arrive on site instead of having to go to the office to clock in and then travel to the job site. This also saves the employer money since they don’t have to pay for travel time from the office to the job site.

Bank of America even has an internal job board that allows employees to see when there are extra shifts available that they can pick up. This helps them fill gaps in their scheduling.

Flexibility increases job satisfaction for both office and deskless workers. In fact, over half of Americans surveyed said they would be willing to take a pay cut in exchange for a more flexible schedule.

Frontline Employees Are Often Deskless Workers

Frontline employees in the restaurant and retail industries are often deskless workers. Many frontline employees feel disconnected from other employees. Improvements in technology can help employees feel more connected to their co-workers, supervisors, and customers.

Frontline workers are often essential workers who provide necessary services to their customers. People can’t live without food, so these members of the deskless workforce must continue to work even when conditions are dangerous, such as during a pandemic.

High Turnover Rates for the Deskless Workforce

Employers of deskless employees often find it difficult to attract and retain good employees. These types of employees often consider their work temporary and are more likely to switch jobs – increasing company turnover rates.

Frontline employees such as quick-service restaurant workers and grocery store employees have especially high turnover rates. The annual turnover for these frontline workers is around 100%.

With the right technology solutions, employee retention will increase as it will help deskless employees feel more connected to the their organisation.

Limited Accessibility for the Deskless Worker

It can be difficult for employers to contact members of the deskless workforce during work hours. Most do not have a corporate e-mail address, and phone calls may interfere with the employee’s ability to do their jobs. This can make it more difficult for both the deskless worker and the employer to use communication channels to get the relevant information they need.

Some Deskless Workers are Mobile Workers but Not All Mobile Workers are Deskless Workers.

Mobile employees move from one place to another for work. Utility line locators are one example. They go out to different locations to work almost every day. Members of the mobile workforce are often connected to their workplaces through mobile apps or other technology.

Sometimes employees who work remotely are also referred to as mobile workers, but most of these other workers are not deskless workers. They often have a home office or other location in their home where they typically work. They use mobile devices or other technology to connect to the business intranet.

Another type of mobile employee is the independent contractor employed in the gig economy. Even though they are not technically employees, they typically work from their cars, using mobile technology to claim gigs from a mobile app. Some gig workers are temporary workers, using Uber or Doordash to fill a gap in their employment.

Disconnected Deskless Employees

Blue-collar workers often lack direct communication with their supervisors and business leaders. This can impact the employee experience and make them feel more disconnected and disengaged. Some businesses may use engagement tools to help employees feel more like they are part of the company culture.

Improved communication channels can help leadership provide relevant information to help employees do their jobs. They can provide detailed instructions to help them understand how they can improve their performance.

How Can Companies Plan for a Better Future & Improve Employee Retention?

To create more engaged employees on factory or shop floors, companies should consider improving technology to increase employee satisfaction. Not only does this lead to a better employee experience. but company policies that enable enough direct communication among workers help increase employee engagement.

Companies should invest in workplace technology to make communication simpler, drive increased productivity, and help deskless workers feel more satisfied.

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