Not all employees are tied to a monitor for eight hours a day, but getting access to much-needed workplace tech support is tough for them to come by.
Deskless workers — those with careers like service technicians, home health aides and others roles in the field — make up about 80% of the global workforce, according to a report by Skedulo, a deskless workforce management and productivity platform. But unlike other workforce demographics, who’ve seen massive technological advancements this year, less than 5% of software investments focused on deskless employees.
“Most enterprise technology solutions and digital transformation efforts have focused on white-collar workers — especially as organizations continue with hybrid and remote work models,” says Matt Fairhurst, CEO of Skedulo. “That has put the deskless workforce far behind their white-collar counterparts when it comes to digital transformation.”
Organizations with a high volume of deskless workers are lagging drastically when it comes to their digital workflow: compared to other demographics: only 6% of deskless respondents rely entirely on digital processes for their work, while 44% of organizations rely on paper-based processes half of the time or more, according to the report.
This means things like onboarding, requesting vacation and tracking pay are much more difficult for people without a workplace homebase, Fairhurst explains. But with the mobile workforce continuing to grow, employers need to move fast to stay ahead.
“The fact that deskless workers are decentralized and remote has made their technology onboarding difficult,” Fairhurst says. “That’s changed a lot in the last couple of years, but deskless worker deployments are still playing catch up.”
Some employers are moving in the right direction: Microsoft, for example, introduced a walkie-talkie function on their Teams platform as means of expanding communication methods for frontline workers. They also spotlighted deskless workers in their annual Work Trend Index, highlighting the impact this group is having on their organization.
But without further advancements in this space, deskless workers will struggle with productivity and a lack of control, the Skedulo report found. Only 6% of organizations feel their deskless workforce is “very autonomous,” and less than one-in-ten deskless workers have “a high degree” of control over their schedule.
However, 97% of organizations agree that increased employee autonomy would improve retention, client satisfaction, performance and market share, meaning short-term solutions could have a big impact, Fairhurst says.
To get there, Fairhurst recommends that employers use a no-or low-cost survey tool and run quarterly reports to encourage dialogue over what deskless workers need, and what is lacking in their day-to-day lives. Embracing this population now can only set organizations up for success in the long-term.
“While some believe deskless work is somehow new, nothing could be further from the truth,” he says. “The movement and mobility of people and the physical energy of deskless work are evident in the oldest forms of work — desks and office environments are far newer. And deskless work will only continue to grow.”