Are You Connecting with Your Deskless Employees?

Did you know that 80 percent of the global workforce is made up of deskless workers. The definition of a deskless worker is straightforward: it is anyone who does not sit behind a desk to perform their job. These types of jobs are spread across a variety of industries, from hospitality, retail, education, construction, engineering, healthcare, manufacturing, and agriculture. Deskless workers do most of their professional work in the field, like working on a sales floor, in a warehouse, on top of communications towers, in construction zones, and their homes.

The Covid pandemic has made the public more aware of this category of worker, and it is now understood that these employees are essential to today’s economy. In the past, the deskless workforce was sometimes called the forgotten workforce.

Many managers have taken an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to their deskless employees. Deskless workers have been neglected when it comes to developing tools and processes capable of improving working conditions and driving productivity. As long as the job’s been getting done, teams have been left largely to their own devices, with paper-based checklists and progress reports left to gather dust in filing cabinets.

As a result, many deskless workers were feeling isolated and undervalued even before Covid-19 hit. Now though, the work-from-home revolution is forcing us to take a more engaged approach to manage teams that aren’t physically in the same place. The lessons we’ve learned about combining innovative software tools and smart human resource management strategies can also be applied to engage our deskless teams more effectively.

Here are five steps that you can take to connect with your deskless team:

1. Bring digital up-to-date

We are using digital devices and apps to connect our work-from-home teams, and we can extend these tools to our deskless teams. Smartphones or tablets keep employees connected via email, chat, photos and videos, providing interactive and engaging ways for employees to stay focused and productive. Instant communication can be a reality for your deskless workers. It’s time for businesses to kill the clipboard and go digital.

2. Unify your team

Communication apps can enable your whole team, including both home-office workers and deskless workers to use the same digital hub to communicate and share information. This can break down barriers between your remote, on-site, and deskless teams and ensure that everyone speaks the same language and works with the same basic information. Keeping your deskless employees updated on the latest company news, activities and events, helps to engage and retain employees because they feel like they are part of your organization.

3. Manage everyone everywhere

Businesses have learned a great deal about leading distributed workforces. One of the insights from the Covid-19 pandemic is that you don’t necessarily need to worry about your workers’ productivity just because they are not physically in the office.

Digital platforms can facilitate better management of employee performance because app-based communication and procedures enhance employee organization and efficiency. Also, you can automatically generate reports and updates that can include photos and just-in-time analyses. Combined with better two-way communication, these tools can improve deskless workers’ productivity, boost accountability, and even generate more creative solutions to increase efficiency across your organization.

4. Communicate and collaborate

Once you have your teams, both deskbound and deskless, using the same communication and collaboration tools, you can connect the dots between the teams. That means taking the time, as a supervisor, to actively explain strategic goals and priorities and ensure workers who might previously have felt outside the loop know what is expected of them.

It also means encouraging deskless employees to get involved. Your deskless teams can draw on office-bound peers as a source of expertise and guidance, and they can also contribute first-hand expertise of their own to help reshape workflows, anticipate potential problems, and ensure your organization adapts to changing circumstances effectively. Good mobile communication tools foster collaboration, human interactions, and organic opportunities to chat and share knowledge.

5. Remain vigilant

Remote work helps limit deskbound employees’ exposure to COVID-19, but your deskless workers are still vulnerable. By now, most companies have set up policies and procedures to keep deskless workers safe. Therefore, continue to be proactive about using digital tech to augment your sanitation and safety strategies and communicate compliance standards.

Now is the time to give deskless employees the support they deserve. Many of the same insights and strategies we’re relying on to manage remote workers will also keep deskless employees safe, engaged, and productive.


Cana Tighe