Online workplace communication increased during the Covid-19 lockdown, but this was mostly aimed at desked employees. Office policies and processes were designed with the knowledge workforce in mind. This is also true for internal communications, which resulted in a communication gap with the Deskless workforce. For these employees, tools such as video conferencing or even e-mail were not viable options.

So, how do these employees best stay engaged with their employers?

Understanding the workforce “divide”

Desked employee overview

Company desktop/laptop with a network login

Fixed work hours

Work with colleagues or in teams

Access to intranet and company email

Direct access to management

Deskless employee overview

No company desktop/laptop with a network login

Shift work

In the field or works alone

No access to intranet and/or company email

Little access to senior management

Deskless workforce: the challenges

Hard to reach

A recent study found that over 83% of frontline workers do not have a corporate email address, and 45% do not have access to the company intranet when at work.

High rate of churn

These employees tend to change their jobs more often than office employees. Many deskless employees see their jobs as temporary.

Out of the loop

Office workers use more communication and engagement tools. These tools enable them to stay connected with their peers, leadership, and the company. Typical examples are email, intranets, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other communication channels. Many deskless employees don’t have access to such technology or it’s too complex to suite their roles.

Lack a voice

As deskless employees are hard to reach and are not well connected, they are often voiceless. This includes vital matters such as their employee experiences and overall work mood.

What do Deskless employees want

Company updates and insights irrespective of location. The single source of truth.

Feedback communication on their progress.

Filling of their knowledge gaps.

To be part of the community spirit.

Have a voice. Giving feedback on their company experiences and to remain in the loop on any improvement actions taken.

Digital Communication: the emergence of Microblogging

Microblogging is also referred to as micro posts. Microblogging is a combination of blogging and instant messaging. Users create short messages to be posted and shared with an audience online. These short messages offer a variety of content formats including text, images, video, audio, and hyperlinks. For the context of internal communication, we refer to these messages as Micro Communication.

The value of Micro Communication for Deskless workers

It assumes diminishing spans of user attention. Small snippets of content are easier to consume.

It’s ideal for time sensitive information.

Mobile optimized by default. Mobile phones have less screen real-estate than Personal Computers. With Micro Communications, a Mobile App prioritizes the usability experience (viz. ease of use, accessibility, and alerts) without excessive overhead associated with content formatting.

Less time spent on content creativity. It’s straight to the point and therefore suits amateur writers. HR, Ops, and Department Influencers don’t have to be expert authors.

Conclusion

For Deskless workers, internal communication does more than just communication: it is the glue that holds your large distributed and disparate teams together. Whatever the tool chosen, it should enable you to push out only relevant updates to targeted groups. There’s nothing worse than irrelevant messages being received, which over time will be ignored and treated as spam.

Another vital area is to promote social communication via Internal Influencers. This will humanize the business and encourage togetherness even among those who operate in the field.

The final consideration is the company’s overall approach with its broader Internal Communications strategy. If Micro Communication is winning for Deskless employees, there’s no reason to believe that its social media inspired values can’t do the same for Desked workers.

About the Author: Martin Brandt

Martin Brandt is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer for JamAngle.