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No desk? No problem! 5 tips for engaging deskless employees

Deskless employees make up 80% of the world’s workforce – that’s a whopping 2.7 billion people away from a traditional ‘desk’ environment for more than 80% of their working requirements.

This army of workers covers multiple industries but are most likely to be found in sectors such as agriculture, retail, hospitality, education, health and social care, transport and logistics, manufacturing, construction, and facilities management.

Many deskless employees struggle to feel connected to their employers, especially when they’re on the frontline dealing with customers or working across differing schedules or locations. This can lead to higher staff turnover rates and can have a negative impact on customer service.

Yet, for many organisations, they’re of huge (sometimes underrated) value. This is the workforce with direct knowledge of the customer experience, who can highlight potential risks and provide insights and ideas for innovation and improvement.

Engaging with your deskless workforce poses a different challenge to those in the office. Many don’t have corporate emails or access to the same technology, so your approach should be adapted specifically to their needs.

Here are our five top tips to better engage and reconnect with your deskless employees.

1. Right time, right place, right message

How do you better connect head office, leadership and the deskless workforce? By designing better, more inclusive communication channels. With some reports suggesting up to 83% of the deskless workforce don’t have corporate email addresses, a “one-size-fits-all” approach to your employee communications simply won’t work.

Developing a mobile-first communication strategy specifically for your deskless workforce is essential.

You should consider:

  • Who your deskless employees are.
    Build a picture using demographics, role descriptions and the challenges they face.
  • Why you need to talk to them.
    What information will you need to share?
  • When you’ll communicate.
    Take into consideration different shift patterns and time zones.
  • How you’ll communicate.
    Choosing the right channel is essential – specifically designed apps, internal communications tools (like Slack or SharePoint), kiosk stations, printed materials, bulletin boards, in-person conversations, texts, or calls are all options.
  • What you’ll say.
    Tailor the content with clear impact and outcomes for your deskless audience.
  • Make it a two-way conversation.
    Ensure your strategy includes methods for employee feedback, either through regular pulse surveys or on an ad-hoc basis.

2. Build the connection between managers and employees

Creating an open and honest culture is essential. It helps build employee engagement, improves retention, helps attract the best talent, and has a positive impact on the bottom line.

Building this culture is challenging – but not impossible. There’s no quick fix, but enabling a connection between deskless employees and their line managers will help build a better working environment and culture for all.

Much of this goes back to your communication strategy, helping your deskless workforce understand their ‘why’ and their value. Alongside your centrally published messaging, empower your managers to reach out to their deskless teams and build relationships.

Allow them the time and resources needed to get together and create that vital two-way connection. They need to be present – either online or in person – to build rapport, provide guidance, take feedback, and motivate.

You may also look for opportunities to upskill your management teams with the coaching skills needed to nurture and inspire.

Read more about how you can make workplace culture a priority for your leadership teams.

3. Show them some love

43% of deskless workers are either actively or passively looking for a new job, and the main reason isn’t salary – many are looking to leave as they don’t feel appreciated or respected.

So, how can you get them to stay? Show them they’re valued by creating moments that matter throughout their employee journey.

These moments impact affect how your employees engage with you as an employer. They cover every stage of the employee lifecycle – from initial attraction and onboarding right through to exit – but, as every employee has unique circumstances, it’s important for you to properly measure, rather than assume, what these moments are.

This is where employee listening is super effective. Having a platform that gives your employees the ability to confidentially share what’s important to them means you can build a data-driven programme of moments that truly works and is bespoke to your organisation.

Discover more about moments that matter.

4. Keep them safe

Talent shortages, combined with increasing service demands, mean that many employees in typical deskless industries are experiencing tougher schedules and increased pressures from the customers they serve. In fact, a recent report has shown a staggering 70% of deskless workers have suffered or feel at risk of burnout.

This heightened strain often results in more health and safety incidents, many of which go unreported and could be avoided if communications channels were more open and effective.

Running regular pulse surveys can help your frontline workers become more confident in speaking up about safety standards and wellbeing concerns. They can also help your organisation identify areas of the business that may be experiencing increased risk, not just from a physical health perspective, but from a mental health, resourcing and inclusivity perspective too.

This is something we’ve worked on with Stonbury – a specialist contract to the water industry – helping them to reduce RIDDOR incidents by 75% and minor injuries by 68%.

Read more about Stonbury’s journey.

5. From words to action

More than a third of deskless employees think their employers don’t listen to them. With feeling valued being a high marker for employee engagement, it’s important for employee feedback to be acknowledged and, if valid, actioned. Failing to act on feedback can have a negative impact on employee engagement, retention figures and overall customer experience.

Employee surveys help deskless workers to be heard, but this should be more than just a tick-box exercise. Surveys should be used as a means for gathering insights and data over time – and these insights should be aligned to your organisation’s KPIs, providing detail on key issues and highlighting opportunities for change and innovation.

Tailoring your surveys to your deskless workforce means you’ll get better response rates and more actionable insights that can ensure fair and inclusive decisions for all your workforce, regardless of their schedules and locations.

For more insights into how to build actionable surveys, take a look at our 7 tips for getting actionable insights from your surveys.


Engaging your deskless workforce is essential if you want your organisation to provide the best customer experiences. To build better engagement, employee listening needs to be a constant activity within organisations, it helps leaders to identify what is – or isn’t – working, to respond to sources of disengagement, and to nurture a healthy culture.

WorkBuzz is more than just software. Our expert People Science consultants can help you design the right feedback strategy for your deskless workforce, ask them the right questions, and empower your managers to take ownership of their feedback. And our support is tailored to your specific needs and drives results directly linked to your organisational KPIs.

Our platform offers a flexible, simple-to-use survey tool giving you in-depth insight on employee needs and concerns, whatever their location or schedule. Book a demo with us today to find out how WorkBuzz can help you create meaningful surveys to help better understand your workforce.

Discover more about engaging your deskless workforce.

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