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Deskless Shift Workers: Who Are They?

May 12, 2022

Survey Results: How Businesses Are Addressing Negative Employee Experience

Deskless shift workers, the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, work around the clock to provide us with the services and products we rely on every day. The deskless workforce comprises 80% of the global working population, registering at 2.7 billion. However, these workers are continually underserved when it comes to technology adoption, training and work roster management.

With this in mind, companies must recognise who these deskless shift workers are and what challenges they face every day. This way, organisations can remain competitive in the changing landscape of business operations.

Who Are Deskless Shift Workers?

Deskless shift workers are employees who are not tethered to their desks or dedicated workspaces to accomplish their day-to-day tasks. Not to be confused with remote employees, these workers do not necessarily perform administrative tasks from the comfort of their homes. Instead, they are out in the field, on the assembly lines, behind the wheel, manning brick-and-mortar shops, or on standby in emergency rooms.

Much like any other employee, these workers might have client-facing duties, behind-the-scenes responsibilities, or a mix of the two. However, unlike their office-based counterparts, deskless workers rely more on mobile devices and collaboration technologies to stay in contact with their team, carry out operations smoothly and obtain access to their work rosters and employee documents.

Deskless employees can be found in roles across various industries. Consider the following industries and how prevalent their deskless workers are.


Titles – Cashiers, Store Staff, Sales Personnel, Associates, Partners, or Team members

These associates work at your favorite stores and shops and also support your online orders. They maintain display, ring up your orders, maintain stock and open and close the location each day.

Role Values

  • Scheduling
  • Coworker Camaraderie
  • Recognition and Incentives

Common Industry Impact

  • High turnover
  • Seasonal / Part-time work
  • Working on weekends/evenings/holidays
  • Workers struggle to maintain communication across sprawling system of national HQ and satellite stores

Engagement Motivators

  • Open communication
  • Reward and Recognitions
  • Schedule visibility
  • Shift-swapping


Titles – Machinist, Assembler, Welder, Foreman, Production Manager

These are employees who work on the production floor as line employees or as operations managers. These workers make/build/assemble things. They are on their feet and operating machinery, physically working on assembly lines, on-site, or in the factory. Aside from punching in and out of shifts, they have little direct contact with management.

Role Values

  • Being respected and included
  • Scheduling
  • Safe work environment

Common Industry Impact

  • Production quotas
  • Lack of upskilling
  • Division between Management and Workers

Engagement Motivators

  • Two-way communication and input
  • Safety and emergency protocols
  • Easy access to SOPs and troubleshooting


Titles – Doctors, Nurses, Hospital Aides, Caregivers. Teachers, Principals, Secretaries

These people care for us and teach us. Though some have access to a desk, their real work is with people, patients and students whose well-being relies on them. They require “always-on” access to information, especially when they’re on their feet.

Role Values

  • Helping others
  • Being respected and supported
  • Proper training and transparency

Common Industry Impact

  • Work is draining both physically and mentally
  • Burnout from fast pace and long hours
  • Low pay and budget constraints

Engagement Motivators

  • Sentiment Surveys
  • Input into procedures, policies and regulations
  • Honest, two-way communications


Titles – Field workers, Crew members, Technicians.

These crew and field workers keep us connected and society’s infrastructures running smoothly. Due to their work being in many locations, they often communicate through unsecured, third-party apps, which means management can’t be certain if everyone is interacting and receiving their directives.

Role Values

  • Compensation
  • Scheduling
  • Flexibility
  • Being respected and heard

Common Industry Impact

  • Clean and affordable energy transition
  • Poor perception of career growth
  • Lack of focus on workforce potential

Engagement Motivators

  • Continuous learning and training
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Surveys and sentiment analysis

Be the Employer of Choice Where People Love to Work

Managing deskless shift workers has its fair share of challenges. As employees that rarely interact with decision-makers, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to communication, training and technology. Employers must go the extra mile to remove these barriers and bridge the gap between deskless employees and the rest of the company.

One way to address this is by investing in human capital management (HCM) technology like WorkForce Software. The teams at Nucleus Research anticipate a mass influx of employee experience targeted tools for the deskless employee and positions WorkForce Software to be at the frontlines of better serving this worker demographic. Built to handle the needs of both deskless and desk-bound workers, WorkForce provides the tools your employees need to work as seamlessly as possible. It enables real-time communication, in the moment training and feedback, provides employees with a virtual collaboration space and gives them 24/7 access to the files they need.

Explore how WorkForce Software can help you unlock your employees’ potential for better performance today. With WorkForce at your disposal, you can transform your company into a community where deskless employees thrive.

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