Half of deskless workers suspect they are invisible and expendable

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Over half of UK based ‘deskless’ workers (51 per cent) say they’re viewed as expendable by their employer. Plus, almost a third (32 per cent), feel that their corporate, desk-based colleagues regard them as inferior.  These are the findings from O.C. Tanner’s 2024 Global Culture Report which gathered data and insights from more than 42,000 employees, leaders, HR practitioners, and executives from 27 countries worldwide including 4,818 from the U.K (of which 1,734 are deskless).

Deskless workers comprise 80 per cent of the Global workforce and include offline and essential workers who traditionally work away from a desk. They are emergency workers, and those who keep production lines moving, customers purchasing and organisations functioning. However, despite their crucial roles, the Report highlights that many deskless workers are feeling dispensable and sidelined. Around 30 per cent of deskless workers admit they are often talked down to by people in the corporate office, aren’t taken seriously by senior leadership and find that their ideas are quickly minimised or dismissed.

“It was not long ago we were clapping the efforts of frontline workers, but many are now feeling unloved and that their contributions don’t matter”, says Stuart Cheesman, European Strategist of workplace culture expert, O.C. Tanner. “Undermining and diminishing the roles of deskless workers is not only morally wrong, but isn’t good for business. When deskless workers are made to feel expendable, they are unlikely to stick around and deliver their best work. In contrast, when they feel seen and appreciated by their organisations, the business outcomes are significant including improved staff retention and performance.”

The Report recommends educating leaders on how to effectively appreciate and recognise their deskless workers. This includes the messages leaders want to communicate to them, how they can create meaningful and authentic recognition experiences, and how they can nurture a strong sense of belonging for all.

When deskless workers are understood by their leaders, including how they prefer to be recognised and appreciated, there’s a 350 per cent greater chance they’ll choose to stay with their employer another year. They are also 378 per cent more likely to deliver great work and 258 per cent more likely to feel a sense of fulfilment in their jobs.

Cheesman adds, “Leaders can’t afford to neglect their deskless workers who are essential to their success. They must ensure that all their people are regularly appreciated and respected for the jobs they do and the contributions they make. Doing so will nurture a compassionate and appreciative culture that ultimately delivers compelling bottom-line results.”