7 September 2021

How HR can keep deskless workers engaged and improve productivity

With the shift in ways of working in recent times, it’s now even more challenging to engage remote or deskless workers – Stuart Margetts, head of business development from OurPeople, argues that it’s time for HR to prioritise mobile experiences


Stuart Margetts

Stuart Margetts


Employee engagement HR transformation Technology


With the shift in ways of working in recent times, it’s now even more challenging to engage remote or deskless workers – Stuart Margetts, head of business development from OurPeople, argues that it’s time for HR to prioritise mobile experiences

If the last year and a half has taught us anything, it’s the value of deskless workers. Not only are they key to the UK economy, but they are also usually the ones responsible for taking care of customer-facing elements of business and providing vital services to keep us all safe. And yet, at the same time, deskless workers, who make up to 80% of the UK workforce, are often the last to know about key updates or business developments, even if they represent the face of many of their companies.

For HR managers this presents a challenge: how do we ensure teams get the updates they need, without overwhelming them with information? With the wider adoption of mobile-based technology over the pandemic, there are ways this technology can help keep deskless workers engaged and remedy the issue of unproductive employees  – as shared in this blog.

Cutting through the noise to keep employees engaged

The first challenge deskless workers must overcome when dealing with mobile technologies is combating update fatigue by understanding which updates are relevant to them. Unlike desk-based workers, whose primary role is not to sift through emails and information, deskless workers need to be able to react quickly to situations and respond to new information instantly and on the go. Reaching these teams with relevant information is crucial, but HR teams should also be aware that providing a format that can be easily understood and reacted to is equally as vital.

For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was critical for healthcare teams to be updated with new protocols or status reports whilst also attending to patients. Managers and HR teams needed mobile-based platforms to deliver this information in short sound-bite-sized updates, that could be received and understood by workers from simply looking at a phone screen and responded to through a couple of swipes.

Over the same time, video updates were also widely adopted by HR managers and deskless teams to quickly visualise and demonstrate updates and communicate key information in less time than it would take to write and be read. These kinds of updates were particularly useful for gym facilities, health and care, as health and safety measures took on new importance during tumultuous times. This appetite for video communication is a great indication to HR managers that this mode of communication works best for deskless teams, increasing the likelihood of sustainable engagement from either side.

With deskless teams often working different hours across a variety of locations, ensuring the right people get the right information is vital. HR should look at incorporating a unified communication platform with a targeted messaging service that allows team members to receive the updates they need without switching platforms or devices. Such a platform takes up less time and attention by streamlining information from management for the benefit of their teams.

Platforms, such as OurPeople, allow HR managers to target specific groups of employees and identify who has engaged with content, enabling them to quickly follow up with individuals on an individual basis, as opposed to a whole group. Ensuring all relevant teams have seen the information they need will have a drastic impact on how fast and effectively a team responds to a critical incident.

Improving productivity and streamlining communications

Almost a third of the UK working population – 10.4 million people – could be using smartphones to be more productive at work, according to research from Deloitte, Mobile Readiness for Work. It’s likely then that 1 in 3 of your team could benefit from access to better mobile technologies, as convoluted communication streams posted on different platforms (like email apps or separate messaging systems for separate teams) can slow workers down at peak moments of activity.

Deloitte’s report also showed that deskless workers often have to “double-up” on tasks by not being “digital-first”. On average, across all industries, 24% of workers fill out forms on paper. Of these, two-thirds of workers who fill out forms on paper then copy data onto a digital format, most commonly using a PC. This means that more than 5 million people in the UK are doubling up on some tasks, losing valuable time and demoralising their workers with illogical systems and tedious tasks. By simply updating these internal processes and doing away with outmoded forms of administration, HR managers could save their teams hours of work across the UK.

Today, custom smart form technology, such as OurPeople’s, streamlines these archaic and repetitive practices, leading to faster, more accurate paperwork records. Having a centralised database of information and updated records available in your back pocket means that deskless workers can instantly access the information they need and provide feedback and updates to the rest of the team with ease. This technology not only saves workers hours of repetitive work, but it helps managers instantly understand how protocols are working for the staff, how they might have to change, whilst gathering real-time feedback from their workforces.

The best talent wants the best digital tools

Today, many workers are adopting a hybrid format of work: a combination of working in the office and working at home. During the pandemic, thousands of people became “deskless” workers, in one way or another. As many employees reassess what they want from their careers – with 41% of workers considering quitting or changing professions –  it’s vital that all businesses and HR teams have the right digital communication tools in place to ensure they’re constantly connected with a separated workforce and have right pastoral care is in place. Not only does this support improve productivity but crucially improves employee retention in the long run.

Digital tools hold the key to progress

Over the last few years, organisations have started to wake up to the importance of digital communication tools, and the role they play in keeping employees engaged and motivated. As more teams adopt a hybrid approach to day-to-day working, HR teams need to take on key learnings from deskless workers, ­such as the importance of mobile technology and streamlined communications, to help organisations adapt to their new working reality.

Stuart Margetts is the head of business development at OurPeople, the mobile-first communications app designed to keep deskless teams seamlessly connected.