Deskless workers: workplace wellbeing for all

Boston Consulting Group recently conducted a survey that revealed that 37% of deskless workers are at risk of leaving their jobs in the next six months, and 50% attributed this to a lack of ‘work-life’ balance.

Deskless workers play a vital role in every business, so how do we ensure we are supporting and promoting their wellbeing?

Deskless workers: workplace wellbeing for all

Without deskless workers, the world would grind to a halt. Organisational performance and success depend on their time and talent – 2.7 billion people’s worth. But in 2022, BCG reported that 43% of deskless workers were looking for work elsewhere. Coupled with frontline workers striking in the streets and widespread quiet-quitting, it’s critical that as leaders we ask ourselves ‘why’? 

Invest in what matters

Perhaps the old adage ‘money makes the world go round’ needs an overhaul. It’s deskless workers who keep customers returning, transport running, children learning, factories operating, and communities cleaned and cared for. And money isn’t why they’re leaving – the primary reason deskless workers look for a new job is because their emotional needs are not being met

And there it is. Not money, but happiness. 

As caring leaders we understand the need to protect workers’ wellbeing, but how to go about it can feel less clear. We’re here to simplify an approach to workplace wellbeing that shows how rethinking our people policies can harness happiness for everyone. 

An epidemic of exhaustion

Let’s start by unpicking the problem: deskless work can be physically demanding, unpredictable, high-pressured, risky and isolating. 

The pandemic hasn’t helped, turning many deskless workers who weren’t already performing essential services into frontline workers. As a result, they’re burnt out and struggling. 

Half of deskless workers surveyed (during the pandemic) said their job had negatively impacted their mental health. 

Exclusion from benefits enjoyed by office workers (such as hybrid working) and cultures of overwork and long hours have left deskless workers feeling emotionally fatigued – 33% feel undervalued and 40% feel disposable.

Is it any wonder wellbeing needs a boost?

Creating a culture of care

Wellbeing: ‘the state of feeling healthy and happy’

Wellbeing encompasses social, physical, emotional and mental health wellbeing and is unique to everyone. 

Crucially, wellbeing is in the self-interest of a person. For organisations this can seem counterintuitive to share purpose or wider business goals. For leaders it can feel an insurmountable challenge with many areas to address. 

While leaders may not be solely responsible for someone’s wellbeing, we are responsible for facilitating a culture of health, safety and belonging – one that values happiness and enables every person to achieve positive wellbeing.With many deskless workers performing public-facing roles, protecting wellbeing is a win for customer experience too. 

Leaders who cultivate psychological safety and role-model inclusive behaviours and attitudes will support deskless workers to feel respected, safe and have purpose – the foundations of wellbeing. 

So, let’s take a look at an approach that puts deskless workers’ wellbeing at the forefront.

For leaders looking to transform their wellbeing culture, our advice is to think about the whole person by engaging with deskless workers’ hearts, minds, bodies and sense of purpose. 

And remember, supporting these wellbeing approaches with open, kind communication and accessible technology will ensure that the benefits reach every worker – regardless of where and how they work.

Let’s get down to details – here’s how to do it and why it matters. 

Hearts – connect with care

Leaders who communicate with care foster inclusion and build trusting relationships with their teams, leading to reduced stress and higher retention.

Do this by:

  • Empathising, listening skilfully and never judging
  • Offering safe spaces for sharing honest feedback
  • Checking in regularly and be aware of those who may be struggling
  • Celebrating achievement and showing appreciation with meaningful recognition

Minds – nurture knowledge

Leaders who prioritise learning and development for themselves and their deskless workers foster a culture of improvement, encouraging problem-solving and innovation. 

Do this by:

  • Utilising technology to ensure deskless workers get the onboarding and training they deserve 
  • Adapting training delivery to meet the deskless workforce at point of need

Bodies – respect rest 

Leaders who protect deskless workers’ physical health and work/life balance reduce accidents and exhaustion, leading to increased efficiency and productivity. 

Do this by:

  • Fighting fatigue by challenging ‘always on’ cultures
  • Encouraging regular breaks and utilisation of leave 
  • Levelling-up access to wellness benefits 
  • Offering flexible shift scheduling to give deskless workers more choice and control

Purpose – build belonging

Leaders who nurture collective responsibility build community and emotional connection, which eliminates an ‘us and them’ culture to support diversity, equity and inclusion.

Do this by:

  • Igniting a shared sense of purpose by keeping deskless workers informed
  • Discovering what motivates your deskless teams and developing benefits to match
  • Learning about their experiences and environments to better understand, and acting on their needs

Our deskless workers carried us through a pandemic and continue to do the heavy lifting; it’s time we lightened their load.

Hit the connect button below to discuss how we could help create a wellbeing culture in your workplace, or click here to discover how our Wellbeing Toolkit can guide and support leaders to implement wellbeing strategies for everyone.