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Five surmountable challenges faced by today’s deskless workforce

There is no undermining that our frontline workforce is what keeps the UK running smoothly, without them the country grinds to a halt. Sandra Moran states that the recent surge in frontline, industrial action has made it clear that deskless workers need improved workplace experiences, many of which are made possible through AI lead technologies.

Debate around the future of work in today’s post-pandemic reshuffle often focuses on employees whose work can be completed at a desk, whether situated in an office or at home. Yet, the majority (80%) of the global workforce are in vital roles that take place far away from the confines of a desk.

These deskless employees serve some of the most critical roles in our society, whether in the factory, warehouse, the field, behind the wheel, in stores, classrooms or in our medical facilities. While office counterparts have enjoyed the benefits of working remotely, most deskless workers have been left without access to options on where to work or the same technologies that could transform their working lives for the better.

So, what are the common obstacles preventing these employees from benefiting from the same flexibility as office workers? And how can employers’ harness digital workforce management technologies to improve the employee experience for deskless staff?

Obstacle #1 – Harnessing smarter scheduling
From manufacturing to healthcare, there are a myriad of organisations that operate twenty-four hours a day, encompassing daytime, evening and overnight shifts. Add to that special skills, union agreements and regulatory requirements and employers often find themselves challenged to ensure adequate staffing, particularly with worker availability and industry demands continuously evolving. This means employees are often assigned inconsistent shifts that are dependent on operational needs.

Yet, research shows that employees seek flexibility, with some listing it as more important than overall compensation. Organisations should therefore consider a modern workforce management system, which can align company requirements with employee data – such as personal leave, availability hours, and even skill level – to ensure they are able to manage optimal staffing outcomes, while providing more flexibility and better work life balance for shift workers.

Obstacle #2 – Enabling real-time comms
While effective communication is the bedrock of any team, deskless employees don’t tend to have regular or direct access to communications or company leadership.

This can result in security challenges, particularly if a deskless worker is forced to use an unofficial or unsecure third-party app like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to quickly get the information they need for work. Beyond security, many workers still need to contact operational managers for an update on their schedule, which is a cumbersome process for both employee and manager.

To overcome these barriers, a digital workforce solution would enable workers and management to easily and securely contact each other via personal devices. This not only gives workers autonomy over their own roles – providing an easy place to access  information, request time-off, or to interact with other workers – but also provides corporate communications and impactful management interactions with ease and speed.

Obstacle #3 – Meeting technological expectations
We now have five generations in the workforce: the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. While Gen Z has grown up using digital technologies to power their daily lives, many organisations are still using manual processes that are foreign in comparison to what the experiences these employees are accustomed too in their personal lives. Unfortunately, this sends a strong signal to younger workers that their organisation isn’t progressive and a place they can be most successful – making it incredibly hard to both recruit and retain young talent.

By adopting digital workforce management tools, employees can use consumer-grade apps that make their working lives easier and mirror the seamless experiences they enjoy out of work. Whether that’s booking holiday in a few clicks, accessing shift scheduling on a live dashboard, asking peers ‘how to’ or alerting managers to issues with the touch of a button on their mobile device, employees not only appreciate digitalisation, but they also expect it.

Obstacle #4 – Offering real-time training
Training both new and existing employees is essential for organisations to remain at the forefront of their industry. Additionally, employees themselves are eager to broaden their skillsets. If your organisation offers no opportunities for advancement, employees will feel like they are plateauing and look for something new and exciting.

In today’s fast-paced work environment, both desk-based and deskless employees need real-time access to relevant development materials. Fortunately, a digital workforce management solution is an accessible way to continually train workers – providing easy and secure access to training materials, either via a work device or personal device, whenever and wherever the employee needs it.

Obstacle #5 – Improving operational efficiency
One of the main challenges for organisations with deskless employees is managing their time and attendance. 56% of employees say they must deal with inefficient time and attendance management systems. We must evolve beyond onerous manual steps and system workarounds that create payroll issues, and ultimately prevent workforce optimisation. Here, a digital method of time-tracking would help to support time-related compliance issues, such as the UK’s working time regulations and rest breaks.

Using a digital tool organisations can minimise payroll leakage, managing policies and reducing unplanned overtime costs with real-time notifications that alert when your employees are working outside of their scheduled hours. You can also easily identify emerging trends within your workforce and apply gross pay calculations, attendance and lateness policies in real-time. Finally, this enables seamless integration with your HR and payroll systems for a complete end-to-end process.

Every job comes with challenges. However, UK companies should do more to overcome these obstacles and make work easier for both employees and managers alike – particularly by matching the easy-to-use apps we take for granted in our personal lives. Fortunately, the challenges listed in this article aren’t insurmountable issues that one day may have a solution: digital technologies are available now, offering the potential to close the employee experience gap for deskless workers now.

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