How Can Companies Empower Their Deskless Workers?

April 20 2017

Deskless worker

More businesses are choosing to forego the traditional office experience in favor of remote working to help employees be more in control of their schedules and achieve a better work/life balance. But empowering ‘deskless' workers to operate at maximum efficiency without an office culture can be challenging. Great customer communication strategies must begin internally and then move out towards the end user, so businesses need to be diligent and adapt alongside this shift in work culture. Fortunately, technology and business practices are constantly evolving to provide the necessary tools.  

The Deskless Worker Revolution

The popularity of remote work environments and open office plans continues to increase, and companies need to adjust their communication practices to accommodate this new normal. According to Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workplace report, from 2012 to 2016, the number of employees working remotely for at least part of the week rose from 39% to 43%. Additionally, those who work entirely remote rose from 15 to 20%. These trends are most prevalent in finance, insurance, and real estate, followed closely by transportation, manufacturing, and retail.

Teams are communicating increasingly via email, instant message, video and telephone conference, and less in-person. Even employees in a traditional office setting are more mobile than ever, often checking emails during their commute to and from work, and responding to queries after leaving the office. According to the 2016 Connected Enterprise Report, "of the average company's sales reps, marketing staff, and executives, 82-85% work away from their office at least some of the time." In order to support the flexibility of a scattered workforce and maintain efficiency, employees need access to the right tools to stay connected.

StaffHub, Microsoft's HR software for the deskless worker, reflects the growing trend of software companies adding HR programs to their arsenal. They followed suit after SAP made a $3.4 billion purchase of SuccessFactors, Workday saw huge success providing HR applications in the cloud, and Oracle boosted its HR offerings with the purchase of Taleo.

Communicating With a Remote Workforce

Managers must use the correct tools to effectively communicate with remote staff. Important discussions like performance reviews, identifying goals, motivating the team, and planning for the future cannot fall by the wayside just because in-person meetings are infrequent. When an employee doesn't feel heard or appreciated, they're more likely to seek out other opportunities, and it's well known that it costs more to recruit than keep existing talent.

Management should also be more proactive about communicating with a deskless worker. This doesn't mean daily meetings to check-in, but it's important to maintain ongoing communications via email, Skype, or phone calls. This establishes trust and accountability while also enabling remote workers to maintain the sense of freedom and schedule control that comes with being deskless.

The connectivity that comes with having a team in one physical location is a leading reason why some companies are hesitant to become a remote working environment. But technology has evolved to close the gap, with platforms like Slack, Microsoft Office 365, and Google's G Suite constantly adapting to improve collaboration amongst remote workers.

There are clear benefits and some wisdom behind this deskless movement. Gallup's report found that all employees who spend at least some of their time working remotely have higher engagement than those who are in offices Monday to Friday. In addition, the tipping point for optimal engagement increased from less than 20% of time to 60% to 80% of time for those working remotely.

While many are thriving in this type of work environment, there are areas where it falls short. According to Gallup, relationships and development are the two main needs that can be neglected for the deskless worker. Fully remote workers don't have interpersonal contact with their coworkers and management, which can make them feel less connected with the company and corporate culture.  Additionally, they often struggle to find opportunities to discuss progress and career development. In order to combat this, maintaining consistent virtual touch points is important, as well as scheduling regular video conference meetings to discuss the employee's goals and hear any frustrations. Organize office events on a quarterly basis to make sure that the deskless workers get some face time with management and other employees.

Happier internal customers lead to happier external customers; if employees feel validated, connected and have a solid work/life balance, it's just common sense that their satisfaction will be reflected in their work effort and the way they communicate with customers. Salespeople will be more motivated, customer service will be more loyal, and the overall customer experience will improve internally and externally.

If an organization supports deskless workers with the proper technology and communication paths, it can take advantage of all the benefits of new workplace trends and avoid the common pitfalls.

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About David Squibb

David Squibb is the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Xpertdoc Technologies Inc., a leader in the CXM/CCM technology industry. He has extensive experience in sales, marketing, account management and P&L operations, which have helped him lead a highly successful $38M software and professional service business. At Xpertdoc, named as one of the fastest growing companies in Canada by Profit 500, David leads a team of top sales and marketing professionals, where they help companies that are focused on growth and client retention to leverage their wealth of client data to more effectively communicate with their customers.

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