Deskless not Voiceless; Bridging the Gap between the Frontline and Head Office

by Dave Nixon
Published on November 18, 2019

Today, frontline workers represent about 80% of the global working population. That’s roughly 2.7 billion people worldwide working behind counters, in factories, or out in the field. And there’s strong demand for deskless work. In the US alone, it’s estimated that there are some 500,000 vacancies for skilled labour that can’t be filled.

So why is it that the enterprise technology we use in the office every day doesn’t cater to a huge portion of the workforce? Emails are inaccessible to most deskless workers. The company intranet is something that frontline workers get excluded from too. And dialling into team meetings is logistically impossible for staff working in customer-facing roles. In fact, it often takes weeks for updates on products and protocol discussed in meetings to trickle down to remote staff.

To investigate this gap between HQ and the frontline, Workplace from Meta recently conducted a study involving 2,000 senior business decision-makers and 2,000 frontline workers across the UK and the US. It turns out that the disconnect between the two is quite alarming.

  • While only 45% of frontline workers share their ideas with senior team members, 90% of managers confidently report that their workers feel empowered to share ideas with them.
  • 83% of managers claim they give all employees a voice, yet 54% of employees feel they are voiceless.
  • When it comes to employee sentiment, 14% of employees feel connected to their business HQ, and 3% feel connected to the C-suite.

What’s abundantly clear is that a major causal factor in the disconnect between people working on the frontline and those in head office is a breakdown in communication. Those feelings of physical isolation from the rest of the workforce are exacerbated by technology that makes it hard for frontline workers to have their voice heard. Now more than ever, it’s vital that there are open channels of communication that facilitate bottom-up communication and allow deskless workers to be active participants in the company conversation. In other words, be deskless not voiceless.

Companies can start by adopting mobile-friendly communication tools that work equally well for remote and desk-based employees. It may not be possible to eradicate email straight away, but instant messaging tools can supplement email to diversify a company’s communication channels. With instant messaging, staff from all corners of the business can exchange ideas in real-time, get instant feedback and share live updates, without being bound to a desk.

While managers can’t physically get around to talking to each member of staff every day, live video makes it possible to have face-to-face calls and meetings. Managers can broadcast monthly meetings via live video to make all staff feel included in the company agenda. Or, they can make video calls, instead of regular calls, to put in that face-to-face time with staff.

US real estate firm Spyglass Realty uses Workplace’s Live Video feature to transform a number of old-school processes deeply ingrained in its industry. CEO Ryan Rodenbeck and his team now rely on live video to present properties to buyers. Live video is also one of the tools in their arsenal that helps them save 30 hours every month on agent onboarding and training.

Whatever the area of need for your organization, better communication is the key to bridging the gap between the frontline and head office.

Meet the Author
Dave Nixon
One of our three Co-founders, Dave is Enablo’s Chief Experience Officer. An enterprise collaboration engineer and problem solver at heart, he has experience across the tech industry working for the likes of Google, PwC and Cloud Sherpas.

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