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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert
In this guest blog post, Lisa Rowan, Research Vice President for IDC responsible for global research on human capital and talent management software and services discusses the often forgotten and silent workforce - Deskless workers, their challenges and opportunities to improve their employee experience with well-designed workforce management systems that can go a long way towards employee satisfaction and retention.


Deskless workers should not be treated as less than office workers

  • Guest IDC Blogger: Lisa Rowan, VP Modern HR Strategies

  • Date: August 2022 

  • Sponsored By: SAP

Workers are considered deskless when they don’t have a designated working space or office. It may be surprising to learn that 80% of the global workforce -- representing 2.7 billion workers -- is considered deskless. However, only 1% of IT investments are focused on this constituency. The roles that deskless workers perform range from the frontlines to the back office and include many customer-facing roles as well as positions that are vital to their employers’ supply chains. In short, most businesses cannot operate without deskless workers. Unfortunately, this group is frequently not afforded some of the same care and attention given to the so-called “knowledge” workers or those that do have a designated office or workspace. Deskless workers should not be confused with “remote” workers. Remote workers have a desk, but that desk is just not located at the employer’s office.

So, what are some of the additional challenges that are unique to deskless workers?

  • Although not universal across all roles, many deskless positions suffer from higher turnover.

  • A majority of deskless workers have no computer or easy access to technology while on the job.

  • Very few even have a corporate email address.

  • With little regular communication coming to them from the employer, deskless workers can become detached and disengaged from their organization.

Even though deskless workers lack access to technology and communications from the employer, the work that these employees perform is often mission critical.

We need only to think back as far as a few short months ago to realize how workers on the frontlines in healthcare, retail, and manufacturing became essential staff during the pandemic. Although the circumstances surrounding the pandemic have eased, we still face talent shortages due to a high volume of job abandonment and job shifting in the last 12 to 18 months. And there appears to be no end in sight to this major job shakeup. As a result, employers need to do all they can to build lines of communication and instill a sense of belonging for all workers whether they have a desk or not.

There is one set of HCM-related functionality that engages the majority of workers that qualify as deskless, and that functionality comprises workforce management. In many instances, workforce management may be the only corporate system with which workers interact. While workforce management encompasses a broader suite of functions, those capabilities that touch the employee directly often include:

  • Time capture – clocking in and out

  • Scheduling

  • Absence and leave management

In today’s talent environment, it becomes critical that the primary system with which deskless workers interact provide a very positive employee experience (EX). IDC research has shown that employees of organizations that offer a mature and superior EX are:

  • 35X more likely to feel part of one team driving business results

  • 48X times more likely to feel that their employers’ culture is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion

  • 2X more likely to trust their employer and feel that there is good communication

The workforce management capabilities that directly touch deskless employees offer an opportunity to present a meaningful and substantive EX and thus realize the goal of fostering a well-engaged workforce. Specifically, employees want well-designed workforce management solutions that are easy to use, offer visibility when reviewing their schedules or making shift changes, and keep them well informed through regular communication in the flow of work. Achieving these objectives through well-designed workforce management can go a long way towards employee satisfaction and retention.

For more information

If you would like more information on workforce management and deskless worker solutions, visit our SAP Time and Attendance Management by WorkForce Software site.


About Lisa Rowan

Lisa Rowan is Research Vice President for IDC responsible for global research on human capital and talent management software and services. Ms. Rowan provides expert analysis focused on both the business services and software used to address HR and talent-related dimensions. Her research addresses developments in human capital and talent management applications, human resources consulting, and HR outsourcing services.