The COVID-19 pandemic has turned traditional office life on its head as desk-based employees prepare for a possible new normal of remote work. As more workers clock in from home, the demand for productivity and collaboration tools has skyrocketed. But as this technical revolution continues to run its course, not all workforces are experiencing the change.
Deskless workers such as field service technicians, home healthcare providers, delivery workers and construction workers make up 2.7 billion people of the global working population. And yet, this workforce is frequently ignored by software companies. These workers often have trouble properly doing their jobs with one-size-fits-all software solutions that need a consistent internet connection and are devoid of mobile-friendly capabilities.
As the pandemic continues, the deskless workforce will only continue to grow — CIOs predict the number of mobile workers will increase by 62% in the next 12 to 24 months.
To support these remote jobs — especially those considered essential during the pandemic. Essential workers are the decision-makers; employers must equip their frontline employees with tools that are built for each individual mobile work role.
Companies that fail to adapt technology to the needs of their deskless and other remote workforce, risk not only poor execution of mobile work services but also the loss of valuable employees.
Inadequate software results in lost productivity
Although there are software development efforts aimed at the mobile workforce, organizations still haven’t invested in these tools at the same rate as they’ve invested in tools for desk-based workers. A recent study found that most organizations continue to rely on legacy tools for mobile work, with only 39% reporting their remote workers use software built for their specific needs. Furthermore, only 13% of these companies say their deskless workers’ needs are met by the platforms designed for them.
While the adoption of software for remote workers has been slow, IT leaders recognize how this inaction has added friction to the mobile workforce. Legacy software tools are complex, and remote workers often need to use more than one tool in their daily workflows.
For example, if a software application isn’t adaptable to mobile, the mobile workforce will require a separate technology to complete a single job — an all too common occurrence for many in the workforce. In fact, 100% of CIOs admitted that their mobile workforce is required to use two or more software solutions in their daily operations, with 18% requiring at least five or more tools.
Eighty-six percent of IT leaders agree that this dearth of supporting technology disrupts mobile workforce productivity.
Another common bottleneck lies in accessibility — IT leaders said 63% of their mobile-remote workers can only use their productivity software if they have access to a computer.
Your mobile workforce is throwing away time, money, and productivity in their struggle to use software tools that aren’t the right fit for their jobs. And the majority of CIOs agree — 67% recognize that they need to support their mobile-phone, remote workers — with additional software.
Instead of stacking software tools on top of each other, businesses must shift their technology to operate under a single process platform.
With a single platform, you can centralize all necessary information and employee resources into one easily accessible, digital thread to empower workers in these worker-roles. By equipping mobile workers with what they need to execute their jobs properly, you can boost output and demonstrate empathy for the challenges they face in the field.
Purpose-built solutions support productivity
Workers in office-based, white-collar jobs can typically count on reliable internet connections as well as colleagues who will fill them in on the details from any meetings they miss. Mobile workers, on the other hand, don’t have the same luxuries — and the resulting disruptions can heavily impede their operational processes. To streamline workflows for your mobile-phone workforce, focus on a handful of crucial workflow capabilities:
- Data recording: Mobile employees such as service technicians and in-home medical workers are often tasked with extensive administrative work in their day-to-day duties. Consider tools that enable workers to reduce the time they spend on administrative tasks by completing them onsite.With offline access to software tools, deskless workers can take notes while they’re out in the field and focus their time on more important tasks at hand. The time saved also allows workers to complete jobs more efficiently and ultimately drive down costs over time.
- Schedule flexibility: COVID-19 has made it challenging to consistently schedule staff visits for specialized in-home services, especially if a worker needs a last-minute replacement due to a conflict. While completing service is vital for business, your employees shouldn’t feel guilty for not fulfilling an appointment their schedule doesn’t allow.Workers also shouldn’t be stretched to meet obligations that derail their work-life balance. Solutions with flexible scheduling capabilities help mitigate conflicts by mapping workforce and customer needs in real-time. Real-time tracking also reduces canceled appointments by making it easier to identify replacements for last-minute changes.
- Consistent connectivity: Deskless workers often lack reliable internet connectivity. For example, wireless internet signals in rural areas — many of which rely on mobile workforce services — typically aren’t as strong as those in more urban areas.Gaps in connectivity can lead to costly setbacks in daily processes for workers in the field and raise safety concerns for in-home appointment services. To keep your mobile workers connected, consider leveraging tools that allow them to access resources online or offline at their convenience. The ability to search for directions, enter data, and correspond with fellow colleagues ensures a consistent workflow with minimal bottlenecks.
- Employee safety and support: Being constantly on the move with a rigorous schedule can cause many deskless workers to feel burned out on the job. Because of this risk, managers require technology that helps them stay in close contact with mobile employees to ensure they’re heard, have the right protective equipment (especially during the pandemic) and are aligned on proper safety measures. You can also equip your managers with the technology to better navigate their relationships with direct reports. Tools like check-in reminders and mass messages help bolster relationships by connecting deskless workers with management no matter where they may be in the field.
- Process analytics: As the pandemic has demonstrated, workflow processes can change almost instantly. Analytical tools help your organization pivot and remain agile in today’s fluid operating environment. With access to traditionally disparate field information like the average travel time your deskless workers take from job to job and appointment cancellation rates, you can identify areas for performance improvement.
Analytics tools can also compartmentalize and export data for third-party reporting projects. Consistently tracking and refining your processes to be more nimble can make your processes more efficient. The process ultimately benefits your deskless workers in the end by improving their work environment and adjusting processes to match their experiences in the field better.
Deskless workers are vital to the success of companies across many industries. While mobile work roles free employees from being tied to a desk, they also come with distinct physical, emotional and digital challenges that desk-based workers don’t face. And when these challenges go unchecked by management, they can create unnecessary stress on deskless employees, resulting in an exhausted workforce and high turnover rates.
As the deskless workforce continues to grow, it’s critical to play closer attention to the software gap. Change begins with applying technology to the specific needs of mobile workers to empower their success now and over the long term. However, a single tool can’t address mobile workforce challenges without proper support.
The right technology must also be accompanied by improved training, access to information, and dedicated employee check-ins to enact true structural change for the better. With these changes in place, you’ll lead your organization on the path towards supporting its deskless, all mobile workers, and the remote workforce, day in and day out.
Image Credit: Ketut Subiyanto; Pexels