Deskless workers: What you need to know

Deskless workers: What you need to know

According to a 2022 State of the Deskless Work Report by Skedulo, desk-based work was defined as spending at least 80% of one's time at a desk. Deskless work was defined as spending at least 80% of one's time working while on the go.


Employees are referred to as deskless workers when they lack a set office or workspace. A staggering 2.7 billion people, or 80% of the global workforce, are deskless workers today.

They primarily work in sectors like:

  • Healthcare
  • Retail
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Transportation
  • Telecommunications


Many of the world's workforce comprises people who do not have desks. There is still a long way to go before employers can make it possible for their deskless workforce to be successful. Furthermore, deskless workers are frequently \"forgotten\" by their companies, who prefer desk-bound employees.


Labor without desks is directly involved in producing and marketing the goods we use daily. They put in a lot of effort to keep us all safe and healthy in the face of a worldwide pandemic, but they also suffer a more considerable risk of contracting COVID-19 than those who work in offices or at home. This is because they are more likely to be exposed to people who have the virus. Workers in supply chains, manufacturing, retail, and healthcare went from being a secondary concern to necessary labor. Once more, the deskless worker is in the spotlight.


Challenges Faced By Deskless Workers



1. Increased Rates of Turnover

Studies indicate that it is difficult for organizations with a large number of blue-collar employees to retain and attract top talent. These workers are less devoted and more likely to switch employment than corporate workers


In addition, a lot of deskless workers see their positions as transient and don't want to stay with their companies for very long.


This is a significant problem in reducing turnover rates. Organizations with high turnover rates waste more resources than those without. Some of the industries with high turnover rates employ deskless workers. Employee turnover is 100% yearly, for instance, at grocery stores and quick-service restaurants.


This shows that many deskless workers are unhappy with their existing working circumstances.


Employee retention rates are higher in workplaces that value commitment from workers. Their sense of belonging at your firm will grow if you give them more opportunities for social interaction and professional development. Since they are the ones that keep the firm running, this will ultimately reduce turnover.


2. Scheduling Challenges

Many deskless sectors still operate on a shift system, with some businesses being open 24 hours a day. These shifts include the day shift (9am–5pm), the night shift (5pm–1am), and the overnight shift (1am-9am). These shifts may alter each week depending on the availability of the workforce and market demand. Employees are frequently at the mercy of their work schedules, making it very challenging to manage their personal life. Research consistently demonstrates that modern workers desire schedule flexibility, often ranking it above overall compensation.


3. Communication Challenges

Deskless workers rarely access a business laptop to access information and communicate with supervisors. Many people don't even have a business email. Many of these employees also have to call their office directly to inquire about their schedule once it has been filled. As a result, there are significant communication problems because each employee must be reached separately, sometimes using unauthorized, insecure, and vulnerable third-party apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.


Employees and management may securely connect using a digital communication solution, and headquarters can effectively engage with their teams and even see notifications when messages have been read and received.


4. Often Disconnected and Disengaged

Office workers typically use more engagement and communication tools than most frontline staff. Thanks to these tools, they can maintain constant contact with their subordinates and peers.


However, many frontline staff members feel cut off from the rest of the business and out of the loop.


According to a Ragan study, only 56% of American deskless workers feel linked to and engaged by their companies. Unbelievably, just 10% of deskless workers feel deeply attached to their employers, and 84% complain that top management doesn't communicate with them directly enough.


How to Manage Deskless Workers?

1. Ensure Access to Information

According to a McKinsey Global Institute analysis, workers spend 19% of their working hours hunting for information. The cited proportion takes into account all workers. We can assume that the number increases significantly for deskless workers simply because they do not work at a desk. This implies that there is still potential for improvement in the file systems, digitization, and other technological solutions designed to facilitate collaboration and data accessibility. In all industries, handheld technology solutions are still far from the standard.


The assignment of corporate emails is still a problem for deskless employees. Providing rapid and straightforward access to emails is a potential solution. The narrative logically doesn't end with emails; access to corporate guidelines, significant upgrades, and other information also play a role. There is much room for improvement in this area because, despite their increased workload, 65% of deskless workers were not given other technology during the epidemic.


2. Invest In The Deskless Employees

According to research, 80% of the world's workforce, which totals over 2.7 billion people, comprises deskless workers. The fact that barely 1% of all corporate software investments are made toward deskless staff technology is entirely absurd in this setting.


The manufacturing and transportation sectors are prepared to increase their investments, which is a straightforward solution. The vast increases in productivity and cost savings—33 and 21%, respectively—are their primary drivers. Another thing to consider is the anticipated 23% boost in employee experience!


3. Flexibility

From a practical standpoint, flexibility has shown to be advantageous for the workforce and a catalyst for broader advancements. The most crucial aspects are the ability to cooperate on innovation and communicate more effectively. Flexibility allows deskless workers to exercise their right to a better workplace and address common problems, such as work-life balance, because they approach work differently than their desk-bound colleagues.


It turns out that deskless workers understand the details of their roles and that, for example, remote work doesn't translate well, although employers haven't been too keen on enabling employees to choose their shifts. They want something more straightforward: the freedom to select their shifts, which will help them achieve a better work-life balance. Giving the people what they essentially want is made possible by using apps that streamline all contact with management, their coworkers, and those delivering real-time updates on shifts, sick leave, etc.


4. Better scheduling

Scheduling is a legitimate part of overall labor flexibility. Most shift employees do not have desks at work. Scheduling shift workers is incredibly tough on all fronts. In the pre-Covid period, lockdowns, stay-at-home instructions, and infections further exacerbated the problem, sometimes to massive proportions.


Managers and schedulers have experimented with several scheduling methods in the past three years. During this testing phase, a recurring theme emerged: flexible scheduling benefits employees and the company by providing coverage of all shifts. Aside from that, allowing employees to self-schedule and receive real-time change notifications through technology gives them more control over how they organize their days and weeks. Therefore, integrating it into the work processes makes perfect sense.


In conclusion, businesses will find it increasingly difficult to maintain and engage a fleet of high-quality deskless workers without utilizing the right technology. Companies have access to a seemingly limitless selection of sophisticated, mobile-friendly technology, from microlearning platforms to workforce management and communication solutions. This is crucial for enabling them to react swiftly and agilely to a constantly changing market.


This article was written by Nicholas T Mushayi, a consultant at the Industrial Psychology Consultants. He can be contacted at 


Nicholas Mushayi
Super User
This article was written by Nicholas a Super User at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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