As CEO and co-founder of digital signage company ScreenCloud, I am at the forefront of business decision-making. 

Coincidentally, however, through my passion project of fitness coaching, I have been able to see exactly how these decisions impact a key section of our target audience.

Though at first glance, digital signage and fitness coaching seem completely unconnected, they share an important stakeholder – the deskless worker. 

Being able to switch from CEO to a more hands-on role outside the office has had many benefits, but one of the more surprising ones has been invaluable insights into the day-to-day workplace problems our organisation aims to solve. 

The deskless worker blindspot

80% of the global workforce is deskless – this includes anyone who does not operate at a designated desk or workstation, from warehouse and factory line workers to hospitality staff or group fitness instructors like me. As a fitness coach, one of the biggest challenges I found was building succinct and up-to-date communication landscapes internally.

Even simple tasks like navigating class times and organising shifts required a plethora of WhatsApp messages with managers and colleagues, making operations less efficient and creating barriers between team members.

While this issue can seem intuitive, simple and effective communication among the deskless workforce can be a real challenge, and it isn’t the only one. When you think of business functions like company announcements, safety information, contact details, or even employee recognition, you probably imagine it in email form. But what if you don’t have a company email?

Despite their numbers and significant economic contribution, we hear very little about deskless workers. We hear even less about the technology gap between them and their office-based colleagues, despite often being most in need of technological innovation. 

Why it’s time to Chat about new forms of AI

Without a company email or an intranet, deskless workers have no access to any clear lines of communication, making them the least connected section of the workforce and at the greatest risk of being the least engaged or connected to their employer. In fact, 63% of all frontline workers say messages from leadership don’t make it to them at all.

Despite making up 80% of the global workforce, deskless workers receive less than 1% of software venture capital funding – and they know it. Research into digital signage has found that 4 in 5 in-office workers get more opportunities due to better access to workplace communication applications and digital information sources. As such deskless workers represent a part of the workforce in particular need of change. 

While that may sound shocking- what’s worse is that those same workers are the ones that would most benefit from the use of technology. In the case of personal trainers, they often aren’t in the same place at the same time, have different shift times and clients, and are constantly on the move throughout the day. In our case, instead of relying on WhatsApp for rotas and scheduling, a screen on the wall of the staff room with next week’s rota on display would immediately save workers bundles of time working things out individually with colleagues.

While this is just one example that may seem unimportant, this technology gap has significant material ramifications when it comes to both productivity and employee engagement. Even worse, when it isn’t a personal trainer but a manufacturing worker, a lack of clear updated information can put the physical health and safety of these individuals at risk.

Honing in on the problem 

Technology investment for deskless workers isn’t just about the workers themselves. Businesses and entire economies also have a lot to gain from improving employee engagement. As the UK starts to wade its way out of the cost of living crisis, CFOs are sounding increasingly optimistic about 2024’s financial projections, yet compared to other nations, the UK’s workforce continues to trail behind in global productivity reports. 

Of course, productivity is a complicated metric contingent on an enormous amount of changing factors, but given the nation’s alarming lack of engagement, it is no wonder that we are falling behind in productivity – so perhaps it’s time to look at how we’re working. 

How tech can help

It is clear that traditional forms of communication are failing to build connection and employee engagement within professional teams. In the face of these challenges, business leaders must evolve their communication methods. 

The potential of technologies like digital signage, employee communication apps and wearable devices to drive workforce engagement, productivity, and connectivity has never been greater. As economic pressures reshape how organisations operate, the need to effectively reach and empower deskless workers grows increasingly urgent. 

In corporate settings, workers have software platforms and other tools designed to improve working life in an office – but what about drivers? Factory workers? Assembly line operators? Or even fitness coaches?  It is essential that in any organisation, large or small, these people are not forgotten. 

The deskless sector remains a dangerous blindspot that CEOs can’t continue to ignore. Business leaders have to look beyond offices to the untapped potential of deskless roles. Solving the communication challenges that deskless workers face through strategic innovation has the potential to impact the entire workforce.

How do you make your app stand out?