The essential role of deskless workers in every business
‘Deskless work’ (defined as duties undertaken away from an office or desk environment) is a term that’s gained traction as we continue to define what work means for us today. But growing up in the 90s, I remember when the adults around me referred to ‘deskless work’, as simply, work. Deskless workers were often portrayed in the media as being representative of in-laws, and widely celebrated. In contrast, office workers were a distant idea that I only saw in popular sitcoms and films.
Nowadays, the focus has shifted, with some deskless employees feeling invisible and burnt out. While deskless workers make up 80% of the global workforce (2.7 billion in 2018), they’re often overlooked or looked down upon in the media, society, and the workplace. However, the pandemic taught us that we couldn’t survive without deskless employees, as they became the essential workers who kept society running.
So how do we meaningfully recognise and reward essential workers?
Leading from the frontlines
We rely on deskless workers for pretty much everything, from healthcare, to food, to education and transportation. In today’s dynamic and fast-paced environment, prioritising frontline workers is essential, not just for society at large, but for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Often, these critical employees are the hidden heroes in many organisations and play an outsized role in ensuring a business runs successfully. In recent years, we have seen revolutionary changes to the way we ‘work,’ and what it means to be office-based. But now we have an opportunity to prioritise and develop employee-focused strategies for those who aren’t desk-bound.
Prioritising the wellbeing and development of frontline employees can bring tangible benefits to your organisation. Below, we will explore four reasons why prioritising deskless employees could revolutionise your business today. Let’s dive in!
Four reasons why it makes sense to prioritise deskless workers in every business:
- Talent retention
According to a survey by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 1/3 deskless workers are at risk of quitting in the next six months. According to BCG, this risk can be mitigated by recognising their contributions and by providing deskless workers with the tools, training and support they need, we can help keep them safe, motivated, and happy at work, reducing the risk of high turnover.
2. Enhanced productivity
Providing personalised learning and development for your deskless workers can be challenging, but research shows that rethinking training and ‘support systems’ is a worthy investment. With access to the right tools, necessary information and the right training, deskless employees can be more efficient in their tasks, leading to a 20-25% increase in productivity.
3. Improved safety and reduced risk
Prioritising deskless employees can lead to improved safety and reduced risk. By prioritising the safety of these workers, organisations can reduce the number of accidents and associated costs. With high levels of psychological safety, not only was employee turnover reduced by a third, but safety incidents were also reduced by 40% and productivity increased by 12%.
4. Your competitive advantage
Frontline workers are often in direct contact with customers. They play a crucial role in creating positive customer experiences and they are ambassadors for every business.
Businesses that prioritise deskless workers have a competitive advantage over those that don’t, as deskless workers are the experts in their field, providing valuable insights. By investing in training and technology, businesses can improve efficiency, deliver better customer service, and gain a reputation for being an employer of choice.
Deskless employees play a pivotal role in ensuring our businesses succeed. As the workforce landscape continues to evolve, employers and managers are striving to understand the needs and expectations of their employees, particularly those who work outside office spaces.
Businesses are realising deskless workers, have unique requirements and preferences for their work environment, and they have a unique opportunity to make seismic changes for their employees and their business.
So what can we do about it?
Here are four key areas that employers can focus on to improve the lives of deskless employees:
- Unlock potential with learning and development
For deskless employees, developing new skills and progressing within the business, can be an important motivator. Regular development and access to inclusive digital tools that can be used on the go, demonstrates to deskless employees that they matter. In addition to this, McKinsey estimates that by 2030, more than 100m workers in developed economies will need to switch occupations, with almost half requiring more advanced skills. Take proactive steps towards up-skilling and re-skilling your team, improving their skillset and securing the future success of your business.
2. Break down barriers by improving communication
PM Insight found that 43% of deskless employees say that a lack of communication is their largest pain point at work. With improved comms, deskless workers can get the information they need, perform their roles better and work in a more inclusive and productive environment. 60% of businesses do not have an internal comms strategy; get ahead of the curve by building an inclusive strategy that engages, enables and empowers all employees.
3. Create a culture of safety
Deskless workers are more prone to feeling undervalued and isolated which can lead to disengagement and high turnover rates. They are often in unpredictable situations that can be stressful and unsafe. By recognising the unique experience of deskless workers and investing in their health, safety and wellbeing, businesses can improve employee retention and foster a more engaged workforce.
4. Access to tools and technology
Many deskless workers can perform their jobs more effectively with the help of digital tools. By adopting and providing technology such as mobile apps and software, companies can improve communication and collaboration between deskless workers and the office-based workforce, aiding decision-making, and productivity. The State of Deskless Workers 2023 report revealed that investing in technology retains deskless employees. In addition to this, technology gives all employees equal access, an equal voice, and presents opportunities for coaching, visibility and career mobility.
Let’s celebrate the contributions of all deskless workers and give them the support, opportunities for development, tools and recognition they deserve! These employees are the foundation of our society, and it’s crucial to prioritise their wellbeing. By providing them with meaningful support and appreciation, we can boost their job satisfaction, productivity, and happiness.
Get in touch to discover our range of tools and solutions that can support your commitment to improve the lives of your deskless employees. Together, we can create a thriving workforce and make the world of work better, for all.