Why deskless workers are at the centre of the workplace technology revolution

Why deskless workers are at the centre of the workplace technology revolution

The majority of deskless workers don’t have access to a company email address and 72% don’t have access to company intranet so, how can companies keep deskless workers engaged and productive? Mark McDermott, CEO, ScreenCloud, talks about the unique challenges of keeping deskless workers engaged and productive.

As the work from home hype that emerged as a result of the pandemic settles down, employers are now attempting to entice workers back to the office with the incentive of a modernised, tech-focused office. Alternatively, many companies that have now committed to the work from home set-up are instead rolling out seemingly endless software tools aimed at boosting productivity for those at home working behind a screen.

Yet, for a large portion of the workforce who don’t work in offices, there was no transformation to ways of working, there are no optimised workflow apps and, perhaps understandably, there is a growing concern that opportunities are fewer as a result. Deskless workers make up 80% of the global workforce – this includes anyone who does not operate at a designated desk or workstation, from warehouse and factory line workers to hospitality staff and more. Yet, despite making up such a large and important section of the workforce, deskless workers receive less than 1% of software venture capital funding.

New research recently released by ScreenCloud and Google ChromeOS found that nearly four in five frontline workers (78%) believe office workers get more business opportunities than they do due to their access to multiple workplace communication applications and digital information sources.

The study aimed to uncover insights into the technological disparity between information workers and frontline workers, exploring its effects on engagement and productivity. Additionally, it set out to understand how digital signage can be best leveraged to address the prevailing productivity and engagement challenges encountered by the deskless workforce. It gathers findings from a survey that polled both decision-makers and employees from large (1000+ employees) manufacturing, logistics, transportation and supply chain organisations – industries with predominantly deskless workforces.

When we consider that 78% of the deskless workforce does not feel that they receive the communication and opportunities afforded to their information worker counterparts, it’s no wonder that organisations are struggling with a disengaged workforce and therefore decreased productivity. According to Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace report, engagement was at 23%. However, while nations like the United States see engagement figures hit 31%, many European countries, such as the UK, see engagement rates of around 10%.

However, one communication channel which can help improve this sentiment is workplace screens, which nearly eight in 10 workers (79%) expressed a positive perception towards.

Technology as a driving force for empowering deskless workers

As shocking as the statistics around engagement may appear on the surface, it is hardly surprising. In the UK, for example, productivity growth has essentially been stagnant since the 2008 financial crisis as a result of disengaged and unsatisfied workers.

The evolving economic landscape has heightened the urgency to engage and empower deskless workers. However, proposed solutions addressing productivity challenges primarily target office workers, thereby overlooking the largest sector of the workforce: deskless workers. Digital Transformation should no longer be limited to the most visible sector of the workforce. To be productive, deskless workers also need technological empowerment.

Fostering greater business alignment

Because deskless workers remain mobile throughout the day, some do not have access to a company email address or company intranet. This lack of access to communication tools can leave deskless workers disconnected from colleagues and misaligned with management if communication isn’t executed in another way. Consequently, business leaders are confronted with the pressing question of how to effectively engage and enhance the productivity of deskless workers.

Eighty-six percent of business leaders have reported noticeable productivity enhancements through the deployment of digital signage technology. Much of this productivity boost stems from employees being better aligned and connected with company-wide strategy. In contrast to makeshift communication methods like large WhatsApp groups and personal device messaging, digital signage offers a streamlined alternative for managers to communicate rotas and regular logistical updates directly with deskless workers on-site.

It’s no surprise that 61% of deskless workers see digital signage as contributing to improved business alignment. When roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, deskless workers can perform their tasks accurately and effectively. With a greater scope to create impact, it is clear that investing in technology for the deskless workforce leads to much more substantial productivity gains than yet another office worker-targeted productivity solution.

Implementing effective workplace technology

To build a productive workforce, it’s essential to provide employees with the necessary technological support tailored to their specific needs. Interestingly, despite the common cultural barriers that lead to employee resistance to technology implementation, a substantial 79% of workers hold a positive overall view of workplace technology. When carefully integrated to align with workplace culture and business objectives, digital signage can effectively bridge the inclusion gap experienced by deskless workers, ultimately elevating morale. Additionally, incorporating QR codes on screens allows employees to provide feedback and respond to company-wide announcements, establishing a two-way communication channel that fosters employee participation and a sense that everyone’s voice is heard.

On top of this, as organisations look for new ways to express employee appreciation, video or photo content can be used to spotlight standout employees or celebrate team accomplishments. Given that deskless workers are often the least acknowledged segment of the workforce, addressing this inclusion gap needs to be a top priority in 2024 to uplift employee morale from its current low point.

Deskless workers deserve greater tech investment and support

In an era of rapid digitalisation deskless workers have been left with insufficient and outdated communications tools that are no longer able to meet the growing demands of modern industries. Despite making up 80% of the global workforce and, in many cases, playing a vital role in society, many businesses have failed to consider the needs of deskless workers.

To competitively position their workforces in this era of increased productivity expectations, organisations worldwide must prioritise upgrading the tools and technologies available to deskless workers. A great starting point would be to make better use of technologies that are often already at hand, such as screens.

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