There’s been a lot of attention over the past few years to employees transitioning to remote work, whether temporarily or permanently. The image of office workers at desks or teams using shared terminals in a common workspace is becoming less common. But it’s also important to remember that many people never worked that way at all. In fact, 80 percent of the global workforce does not work in traditional office settings.
In Q4 2021, Skedulo released its State of Deskless Work Research Report to provide insights into mobile workers’ needs and how their employers can improve their experiences to create greater employee satisfaction and retention. Skedulo polled employees across verticals, from nurses who work out of patient homes as caretakers to home repair technicians, for insights for the report.
Do Employees Know Where They’re Working Today?
One of the biggest challenges for employers managing teams of mobile workers is the nature of working in dynamic environments. Of the organizations responding to the Skedulo survey, 92 percent say jobs that are regularly canceled. This requires revising schedules and communicating those changes to employees. Furthermore, it can be even more challenging if the employer manages work across many locations and employees with different skills, attributes, and certifications.
Even though unpredictability has always been a part of providing mobile services, responding organizations indicated that they were not properly equipped to handle it. Additionally, when it comes to facilitating communication for their deskless workers, 20 percent of organizations lack any dedicated messaging application for their employees. Also, half of deskless workers may use a dedicated messaging application, which happens to be separate from the work application that they most regularly use in the course of their job, forcing them to monitor multiple programs or applications while in the field. And 67 percent of organizations simply opt for emails or phone calls as their primary form of communication.
Technology from a Business–and an Employee–Perspective
Another insight from the report is that most organizations with mobile workers are slow to adopt technology that can help them. Currently, a mere 6 percent of survey respondents relied wholly on digital processes to handle matters such as dispatching, allocating, and documenting works work and tracking tasks.
Notably, however, 49 percent say that three-fourths of their processes were digital, while another 44 percent of organizations use paper-based processes for at least half of their work. When acknowledging the drawbacks of manual methods, the biggest concerns were low efficiency rates, increased risk of human error, and inability to collect business intelligence data. These factors are driving plans for digital transformation, with 82 percent of respondents did indicate that within the next two years, they hoped to have at least 75 percent of their processes be digital.
A less-cited concern was the possibility of employee frustration, but it’s one that businesses need to recognize, especially as labor shortages continue. The disconnect between employers and their deskless employees is only further highlighted when it comes to worker autonomy. Of survey respondents, 97 percent agree that increasing worker autonomy would improve employee retention and performance. Moreover, 94 percent also recognize a strong connection between worker autonomy and worker satisfaction.
Despite these findings, only 6 percent of organizations responding felt that their deskless workers were “very autonomous,” and less than 10 percent thought that their workers have “a high degree” of control over their schedule.
Smaller companies, in the range of 51 to 200 employees, were twice as likely to report that their workers were autonomous compared to large organizations of 5,000 to 10,000 employees. Interestingly, 4 percent of respondents admitted that they purposefully limited the autonomy of their deskless workers. And when the survey asked for organizations to rank their strategic priorities, results found that the lowest-ranked was “improving employee experiences and empowering mobile workers.”
The Deskless-Worker Disconnect is an Opportunity for Software Developers
The survey concludes that while, across industries, the situation for deskless workers is not ideal, there are many opportunities in which to invest in the deskless workforce. Software developers who can increase worker autonomy while giving managers the visibility they need and build flexibility and resilience in unpredictable spaces will find a market ready to utilize those applications.