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Four Challenges Confronting Deskless Workers 

Brad Rooke

March 6, 2024 · 3 min read

From communication to inclusion, deskless workers feel left behind.

Deskless workers encounter many challenges in the contemporary workplace, and navigating these issues presents a considerable hurdle. It’s estimated that 80% of the global workforce is deskless and that while 75% of that workforce uses some form of technology in their day-to-day work, more than 60% of those workers are dissatisfied with that technology. Engaging deskless workers in the digital workplace is crucial for fostering productivity, communication, retention, and a positive work environment.

Challenge #1

Our first notable challenge revolves around the accessibility of real-time information. As individuals engaged in fieldwork or direct customer interactions, the delay in receiving crucial updates is akin to a game of catch-up. By the time pertinent information reaches deskless workers, it often feels outdated, impeding their ability to stay abreast of current developments. Further to this, studies show only 45% of deskless workers feel their organization supports them in learning new skills at work. Employees should be provided with the means to access training and corporate updates and collaborate with their peers to mitigate these issues.

Challenge #2

Another significant challenge lies in communication. The traditional modes of interaction, such as emails or reliance on office phone lines, prove ineffective for those constantly on the move. Attempting to seek quick responses or share time-sensitive insights becomes an exercise in frustration. The lack of clear and timely communication channels hampers the efficiency of deskless workers, who find themselves isolated from the real-time collaboration enjoyed by their desk-bound counterparts. Deskless workers should be provided with mobile-friendly communications channels to stay ahead of the curve.

Challenge #3

Our third challenge is the technological disparity between desked and deskless workers. As we noted, recent study published in Forbes magazine noted more than 60% of deskless workers surveyed reported being unsatisfied or feeling there’s room for improvement in the technology they use to perform their jobs. While those at desks benefit from a suite of digital tools usually integrated into their workspaces, deskless employees often struggle to access the necessary applications while on the move. Bridging this technology gap is imperative to ensure that deskless workers have the tools and connectivity required to perform their duties efficiently, without being tethered to a stationary workspace. It is essential for the digital landscape to accommodate the unique needs of deskless professionals, granting them equitable access to connectivity and resources.

Challenge #4

OC Tanner Global Culture Report 2024 
OC Tanner Global Culture Report 2024

Finally, there is also a gap between desked and deskless workers when it comes to belonging and inclusion in organizational structure and recognition programs. A recent survey noted that 50% of deskless workers feel that their organizations see them as expendable, while 35% feel their contributions are not acknowledged significantly. Meanwhile, the OC Tanner Global Culture Report noted that showing appreciation for the contributions made by deskless workers can increase a sense of belonging by over 130% and connection to the organization by nearly 200% As we can see creating avenues to provide these employees with access to career pathing, recognition and inclusion withing the larger organization is essential to deskless worker job satisfaction.

By taking care to include the deskless worker experience in their digital landscape, organizations can create a more inclusive and connected digital workplace for all workers, promoting communication, professional development and a positive work culture.