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Communication and Collaboration

How to improve communication for deskless employees and frontline workers

Did you know that 80% of the overall workforce are deskless workers? This undervalued group is the backbone of our economy, yet we have failed to empower them with the same opportunities as in-office workers. 

6 minute read
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If I were to ask you to close your eyes and envision a typical workplace and describe it to me, chances are you would mention a desk, cubicle, and maybe even a water cooler. 

Yes, this may resemble a typical office, but it doesn’t resemble a typical workplace.  

Why? Because only 20% of workplaces in the world have office-based employees. 

Wait, what? 

Yes, that’s right, 80% of the overall workforce are deskless workers, like those that work in retail, factories, restaurants, hospitals, construction sites, or warehouses. 

So if this is such a large and significant component of the global workforce, why have we been ignoring them? 

A recent study found that over 83% of frontline workers don’t have a corporate email address, and 45% don’t even have access to the company intranet when at work. This contributes to deskless employees and frontline workers feeling left out, and unaligned with corporate strategies. 

Because they are often disconnected from the corporate and in-office workers, 80% of remote workers said they are more likely to feel excluded than in-office employees. Furthermore, 54% of them believe their employer views them as disposable or temporary workers.

This undervalued group is the backbone of our economy, yet we have failed to empower them with the same opportunities as in-office workers. 

The good news is that there is much we can do to keep these employees informed, connected, and engaged in their jobs (*hint, it involves intranet software and mobile devices).  

Make locating information easy

Locating relevant information is a growing concern—and not just for deskless employees! According to a McKinsey report, employees spend 1.8 hours every day searching and gathering information. On average, that’s 9.3 hours per week, with nearly 20% of the week spent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. 

By making information, news, and people, easily discoverable on your intranet, employees can find the resources they need to be productive. But for this to benefit deskless employees, your intranet must be accessible through a mobile device. 

Consider a scenario of a large library. A librarian may be tasked with assisting a customer locate a book, but imagine how much easier this job would be if the librarian didn’t have to return to their desk each time, but instead could wander around searching for information from their mobile device? 

Or, what about bus drivers? Sure they may have access to traffic and construction updates when they clock in and out for the day, but imagine if they had access to this information from their phone when they needed it?

Give deskless workers a voice

Because deskless employees are difficult to reach, they often feel voiceless, and therefore feel like their opinions and ideas are not heard and respected. Give deskless employees a voice by enabling two-way communication from the convenience of their smart phone. 

For example, a restaurant franchise could post a new menu to their intranet and ask for feedback from the kitchen and wait staff. These employees can then provide input, by commenting or voting, from their mobile device, at a time convenient to them. Or, you could push out a survey to frontline workers asking for their thoughts on the latest merger and acquisition. 

Equip frontline workers with the latest safety information

Deskless employees are at a higher risk for work-related injuries compared to office employees. If you doubt this, consider how frontline employees were impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With information changing rapidly and frequently, frontline employees require access to critical information. Posting this information on your intranet ensures employees stay informed. You could also make safety and security information required reading, in which employees must acknowledge they have read a specific policy or page. 

Enable push notifications in a deskless office

Send instant mobile push notifications in emergency situations to ensure all deskless employees get the message faster. Our new Broadcast feature was designed for scenarios like these; scenarios where you need to cut through the noise to get employees’ immediate awareness. 

Broadcast alerts are intended to be relevant and not overwhelming. It’s about empowering communications professionals with an easy, efficient way to send all-employee alerts about important news.

frontline workers
ThoughtFarmer’s Broadcast feature ensures critical messages are pushed through to employee smart phones.

Don’t burden remote workers with paper

Frontline workers and deskless employees don’t have the same access to printers and fax machines like office based staff do, so avoid requesting printed documentation from them. Instead, ensure all documents and forms are available online—both to access and to complete and submit. Our online form builder is a popular feature designed for frontline employees to complete forms from the convenience of their mobile device.

Help deskless employees feel connected to the culture

Finally, it is critical that we do everything we can to ensure deskless employees feel connected to their workplace culture. 

Research by Ragan shows that just 56% of deskless workers in the United States feel connected and engaged with their employers. A shocking 84% of deskless workers say they don’t get enough direct communication from top management, and only 10% feel strongly connected to their companies. 

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While these stats are alarming, the solution isn’t all that difficult. By posting all relevant employee news and corporate updates on your mobile intranet, employees can feel in-the-know, and see for themselves what is happening in the organization.  

Imagine how empowering this could be for janitorial workers, who are often excluded from employee news and discussions, or factory workers, who are often in a separate facility than office staff!

By investing in a mobile intranet, you’re giving frontline employees a platform to connect and collaborate with their peers and overcome any disconnect they may feel.

Improving the frontline employee experience isn’t just about acquiring new technology though; it’s also about the realization that we need to listen to all employees, wherever they are, and no matter what their job is.

Learn more about ThoughtFarmer’s modern digital workplace solutions.