Deskless Worker

What Is a Deskless worker?

Deskless workers are employees who are not assigned to a specific or permanent workstation and are not required to work from a desk—spending a considerable portion of their time outside a conventional office environment. 

According to a study by Emergence Capital, approximately 2.7 billion workers globally do not sit behind a desk, accounting for 80% of the global workforce. In the US, around 80 million deskless workers work across various industries, such as healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, and retail.

They usually work in a dynamic, mobile, and often unstructured environment, performing various tasks such as customer service, sales, maintenance, healthcare delivery, and repairs. Organizations are progressively acknowledging the influence of technology in enhancing the productivity and job satisfaction of deskless employees. This is crucial as they significantly contribute to the growth of the economy at large.


Who are deskless workers?

Frontline, field, or blue-collar workers are non-office workers mainly employed to carry out tasks and activities outside of a traditional office setting. 

Although these terms may vary depending on the industry context or job offerings, the idea is the same across all boards as workers that do not have a desk or are confined to office space. Frontline workforce, also referred to as on-site workers, are individuals who perform their work duties outside of a traditional office setting and may include the following industries:

  1. Healthcare: doctors, nurses, home health aides, and other medical staff who work in hospitals, clinics, and different healthcare settings.
  2. Retail: sales associates, cashiers, and other staff who work in brick-and-mortar retail stores.
  3. Hospitality: waitstaff, chefs, housekeepers, and other staff who work in hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality establishments.
  4. Manufacturing: factory workers, machine operators, and other staff who work in manufacturing plants.
  5. Construction: laborers, carpenters, electricians, and other staff who work on construction sites.
  6. Field service: technicians, plumbers, electricians, and other staff who perform their duties on-site at customers’ locations.

Advantages of deskless work

Deskless and frontline workers have become an increasingly vital part of the workforce due to their contribution to essential industries such as healthcare, retail, and construction. There are various advantages to having deskless workers, including:

  • Flexibility and adaptability: Deskless workers are known for adapting to changing circumstances and work environments. They must be adaptable and versatile, as they may be required to work in various settings, which can help them acquire diverse skills.
  • Improved productivity: Deskless workers are often more productive due to the hands-on nature of their off-site work, where they can complete tasks more efficiently and effectively.
  • Job satisfaction: Deskless workers have reported higher job satisfaction due to their off-site work, which gives them a sense of accomplishment and autonomy.
  • Better customer service: Deskless and frontline workers are often the face of the company and have direct contact with customers. This allows them to provide personalized customer service, which can improve customer loyalty, retention, and employee advocacy. This is assuming they’re happy!
  • Improved safety and health: Deskless workers are often required to follow strict safety and health protocols, which can enhance their well-being and reduce the risk of workplace accidents and injuries.

Cost savings: Deskless workers may require less office space, equipment, and supplies, resulting in cost savings for the organization.

Challenges companies face with a deskless workforce

Research by Talent Culture found that 50% of deskless workers battle with the physical and mental stress that comes with weekly shift changes. The same percentage receive their schedules at most a week in advance—leading to a consistently negative employee experience. This has not been improving over time, as some employers do not take the time to review this obvious challenge on their behalf.

Aside from being regularly stressed, work schedule flexibility is one of the significant demands of deskless workers, who have been marginalized over the years. They also need multiple training options and a need to have a voice in their workplace. 

Organizations must address these fundamental issues to enhance the employee experience for deskless workers. They can face various challenges beyond that, including:

  1. Communication difficulties: Deskless workers may find it challenging to communicate with their supervisors, colleagues, and management due to their remote work setting.
  2. Limited access to technology: Deskless workers may need more access to technology. Without it, their ability to communicate with colleagues, access important information, or receive training is hindered.
  3. Lack of training and development opportunities: Deskless workers may need more access to training and career development opportunities. Their ability to learn new skills and advance their careers is limited otherwise.
  4. Health and safety risks: Deskless workers may be exposed to health and safety risks, such as working with heavy machinery, hazardous materials, or in dangerous conditions.
  5. Job insecurity: Deskless workers may face job insecurity due to the nature of their work, which can be seasonal or demand-based.
  6. Lack of recognition: Deskless workers deserve proper recognition for their valuable contributions.  When this doesn’t happen, it leads to lower morale and engagement.
  7. Isolation and loneliness: Deskless workers may feel isolated and lonely as they have different social interaction and support than office workers. Inclusion is one of the significant challenges that should be addressed amongst this set of employees, as they are often marginalized.
  8. Cultural Integration: Deskless workers often operate independently or have limited interaction with the rest of the company, typically only communicating with a single supervisor. As a result, they may need more exposure to and participation in the overall organizational culture.

How to engage deskless workers

The job descriptions of deskless workers make them mobile—not confined to a particular location or desk. Most of these groups of workers have reportedly been said not to have access to computers or company emails, making corporate communication a significant challenge while dealing while going about their daily routines. 

But organizations that engage and optimize the employee experience for deskless workers report 18% higher productivity while reducing employee turnover cost by 25-59%—causing improvement in key business performance metrics for the company at large.

To engage deskless workers, leaders can:

  1. Communicate regularly: Leaders should communicate with deskless workers about important company news, updates, and events.
  2. Use technology to connect: Leaders should connect with deskless workers and ensure they have access to the same information as office-based workers.
  3. Training and support: Leaders should provide training and support to deskless workers to ensure they have the skills to perform their duties effectively.
  4. Recognize and reward: Leaders should recognize and reward deskless workers for their hard work and contributions to the organization.

Management strategies for deskless workers

Even though deskless workers represent a significant portion of the workforce, only 1% of the annual $300B investment in enterprise software is focused on meeting their needs. 

This uneven allocation of resources towards desked workers means that the diskless workforce is often neglected and doesn’t receive the necessary support and tools to perform their job effectively. To effectively manage deskless workers, leaders can implement the following strategies:

  1. Communication: is crucial for deskless workers, and companies must ensure effective communication channels. Regular updates, feedback, and recognition can help deskless workers feel more connected and engaged.
  2. Training and development opportunities: Providing deskless workers with training and development opportunities can be highly beneficial as it allows them to enhance their skills and advance their careers, leading to increased job satisfaction and motivation.
  3. Embrace technology: Embracing technology can be a game-changer for engaging deskless workers. Companies can leverage mobile apps, social media, and other digital tools to communicate with their deskless workforce, offer real-time updates, and provide training and development opportunities.
  4. Prioritize safety and well-being: Since deskless workers may be exposed to various health and safety risks, organizations must prioritize their safety and well-being. Proper training, equipment, and safety protocols can help deskless workers feel valued and supported.
  5. Recognize and reward: Rewarding deskless workers for their contributions can help boost morale and motivation. This can be achieved through bonuses, incentives, or public recognition.
  6. Foster a sense of community: Deskless workers can feel isolated and disconnected, so fostering a sense of community is vital. This can be achieved through team-building activities, social events, and other initiatives that unite deskless workers.
  7. Listen and act on feedback: Companies should listen to feedback from deskless workers and work on it. This can help to build trust and improve engagement.

By implementing these strategies, companies can engage their deskless workers and create a more motivated and productive workforce.

How Simpplr can help

Simpplr is an all-in-one communication and engagement platform designed to help organizations keep their deskless workers engaged and connected. Leaders can easily communicate with their deskless workers, provide them with access to important company information such as company culture, and recognize their hard work and contributions. 

Simpplr also offers customizable features backed by prescriptive analytics to suit each company’s unique needs and requirements, making it a valuable tool for managing deskless workers. To improve your deskless employee engagement, a great starting point is to evaluate your internal communications platform. Simpplr can assist you in this area by creating a user-friendly experience that your frontline employees will enjoy. Contact us to schedule a free demo and see how we can help.