If you were to take an inventory of the types of technology used in a business, you’d likely come away thinking that most workers are seated in front of a computer at a desk in an office. That’s because the technology designed to help businesses operate more efficiently and guide employees to be more productive is almost exclusively intended for people who sit at a desk.
In reality, 80% of the global workforce does not sit at a desk.
Thankfully, misconceptions about the composition of the workforce are changing. The rise of gig economy business models has highlighted the importance of people outside the office, as well as the role they play in the customer relationship. The tech industry has only recently begun to appreciate the complexity of the deskless workforce and how it differs from remote workers who are at a desk but not at the company office.
As they navigate their busy schedules, deskless workers require tools that make it simple to efficiently move from job to job and shift to shift with the right customer information and direction to meet their employer’s needs. With the rapid sophistication of mobile technology in recent years, tools for the deskless workforce are finally strong enough to meet their needs.
Both deskbound and deskless employees require a unique approach to managing workloads, scheduling meetings and appointments, and communicating with teams and supervisors. With each category’s unique set of needs, how can companies determine which tech best supports them?
A Closer Look at Both Categories of Workers Outside the Office
These two employee categories—deskbound remote workers and deskless workers—represent a growing share of the labor force. Significant differences exist in each group. Business leaders need to understand those differences to adequately equip workers in each category to retain top talent.
Deskbound Remote Workers
Who are deskbound remote workers? Deskbound remote workers perform their jobs at a desk, just not at a company’s office or headquarters. They’re marketers, accountants, sales professionals, etc., but they simply carry out their jobs from another location, either temporarily or permanently. For example, a marketing director may notice that his or her direct reports are more productive when they work from home, so he or she institutes a work-from-home policy in which each employee can telecommute 1 day per week. Telecommuting has become vastly popular in recent years—70% of professionals now telecommute at least once a week. Some are located in an entirely different state or country from the rest of their team and perform their jobs from home, coffee shops, or coworking spaces.
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What do deskbound workers need to succeed? Remote office workers need access to the same platforms as their nonremote counterparts. Fortunately, many office tools live in the cloud, and access to a phone or video conference line can enable meetings with peers in the office. While this sounds like a simple ask, there are aspects of a remote worker’s routine that can introduce risk to the company.
Unfettered remote access to company platforms like customer resource management (CRM) tools, marketing automation platforms, and even a simple company e-mail account increases the risk of a data breach. Because remote workers are more likely to connect through public Wi-Fi networks at local libraries or coffee shops, they’re more likely to fall victim to bad actors camping out on unsecured networks to steal personal identification information from unsuspecting Web users. To mitigate this risk, outfit your remote workers with a virtual private network (VPN) or a personal hotspot.
Who are deskless workers? Deskless workers (also known as mobile workers) complete their jobs outside the office, i.e., at worksites, in private homes, or at client offices. On a typical workday, mobile workers likely work from multiple sites. For example, an in-home nurse may travel between elderly patients’ homes to provide care, or a construction leader may travel from one jobsite to another to monitor progress. The mobile work sector is growing quickly—the U.S. population of mobile workers is predicted to reach 105 million by 2020.
What do deskless workers need to succeed? For so long, the deskless worker population was underserved by technology. But with the recent rapid advancement of mobile capabilities, it’s now possible to fill their needs for high-tech tools out in the field.
To equip deskless workers to their full potential, you’ll need a mobile workforce management platform. Mobile workers’ hectic workdays require a capable and flexible scheduling platform, seamless integration with mobile tools, and reliable connectivity to job-related information on the go. They’re constantly dropped into new environments and asked to provide a seamless experience to the customer. To allow for this, the right mobile work management platform should enable mobile workers to focus on high-value activities that serve the customer by automating routine but vital tasks like filling out paperwork, leading to improved worker retention and higher job satisfaction.
Remote work may be on the rise, but it doesn’t mean we can lump all employees who perform work outside the office into one monolithic group. Deskbound and deskless employees have different modes of work and different relationships to their organizations’ physical offices. As a result, their technology needs are changing—and it’s up to employers to meet those unique needs in a way that makes sense for both the business and its employees.
Matt Fairhurst is the CEO & Cofounder at Skedulo.