• Deskless Workers: Employees who do not have a fixed or permanent workstation and operate primarily outside a traditional office setting. Their jobs cannot be done remotely and require physical presence. Examples include workers in food production, manufacturing, health care, retail, and hospitality.
  • Quick Quitting: A situation where workers leave a new job within a very brief period, ranging from a single day to a few weeks. 
  • No call, No shows: Refers to employees who, despite having been hired, fail to show up for work and do not contact the employer to explain their absence.

The Current State of Deskless Workers

Deskless workers are historically the most overlooked yet vital contributors to the workforce. A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), “Making Work Work Better for Deskless Employees,” reveals that more than half of these employees feel burned out, with 43 percent at risk of quitting—either passively or actively job seeking. In the retail sector, that number jumps to 48 percent.

A recurrent theme of this column is the pivotal role of leadership. Employees often don’t leave jobs, they leave their unsupportive bosses. Deskless employees are no different. The BCG study notes that deskless workers who are dissatisfied with their managers are less likely to recommend their employer, and are twice as likely to quit.

Company Policies: Are They Inclusive?

Consider whether your organization respects, supports, and values deskless workers as much as their desk-bound counterparts. Are deskless workers considered less valuable and more easily replaceable? Ensure deskless workers receive the information and training they need to do their jobs well. Afford them advancement opportunities. Keep your deskless employees’ needs in mind when developing company policies.

With current labor shortages and remarkably low unemployment, supporting deskless workers is a key way to boost employee retention.

Proactive Initiatives

Two manufacturing firms in Dickinson, North Dakota, make an effort to engage their deskless employees in a meaningful way.

  • Baker Boy
    • President Guy Moos organizes a celebratory lunch for employees marking five years at the company, an inclusive gesture that promotes a sense of belonging. Moos’s wife Sandy and his sister (and partner) Midgie Moos are also invited. The lunch includes those employees that have a desk as well as those who don’t. According to Moos, “During the lunch, I go around the room and ask each of them to share what is happening in their personal lives (if they are comfortable sharing . . . so far, no one has declined) and what is happening in the department in which they work. I share information about Baker Boy—current events and future direction of the company. In closing, I share with them on behalf of Sandy, Midgie, and myself our deep appreciation for the important work they do each day. Baker Boy would not be where it is and where it is going without dedicated and committed colleagues like them.”
  • TMI Systems Corporation
    • Adopting a universal and consistent approach to communication, TMI has large screens placed throughout its factories and breakrooms. Tom Krank, Senior Vice President and General Manager noted, “A 5-minute video is shared with all employees each week. The topics vary from human resource, quality, and safety to many other topics. From time to time, we might conduct an interview with an employee, customer, or supplier. The goal is to share the same information with all employees, whether they work in the factory, out in the field, or in the office.”

As Baker Boy and TMI realize, nurturing a supportive organizational climate is important in sustaining the often-overlooked deskless workforce.

To view this column online (p. 12), please click here.

Debora Dragseth, Ph.D., is the Baker Boy Professor of Leadership at Dickinson State University. Her monthly column in the Heart River Voice offers practical solutions to common workplace issues.