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HR Policy Members Explore What Flexibility For Deskless Workers Can Look Like

As a follow-up to the Boston Consulting Group survey released this summer, Deborah Lovich, Managing Director and Senior Partner, Boston Consulting Group and Brian Elliott, Executive Leader of Future Forum and Senior Vice President, Slack Technologies, LLC joined HR Policy to discuss the trends they are seeing with job satisfaction and provided specific examples of how to create effective work models for the deskless worker population.

50% of deskless workers—i.e., those without the option to work remotely—are not satisfied with job flexibility. While flexibility in the workplace for desk-based workers has been the focus of many employers since the start of the pandemic, increasing numbers of deskless workers are demanding the same flexibilities, driving a new challenge for employers. 

Flexibility linked to overall DEI strategy: With deskless workers more likely to be in minority populations who often most need flexibility, companies should recognize the link between work models and their DE&I strategy. Ms. Lovich argued that if companies are really engaging with deskless workers in understanding their needs, a separate DE&I strategy should not even be needed, as these areas are so clearly linked.

Where can employers start? For deskless workers, only 4% of senior executives believe their company is “industry leading” in developing flexible work models. Mr. Elliott and Ms. Lovich provided steps for employers in how to get started in developing a strategy:

  • Identify and execute quick wins. Pilot new programs like placing HR generalists in ares front line leaders frequent, such as break rooms, to answer questions, eliminating the need for workers to take additional time to seek input via computer or phone when facing a challenge.

  • Implement frame-breaking ideas targeting key populations. Take the time to understand the needs not only of the deskless worker population as a whole, but of segments on that population and from there commit to building tailored packages that impact them.

  • Treat employees like customers with enhanced data analytics. Use the same data analytics you would use to understand your customer on your own employees to create road maps for change.

Engage with employees. Using data to better understand employees is one important step but it does not replace true engagement and listening to employees. Set up time to talk to workers on what they would do to improve their work models. Not only will you get creative ideas, but it also gives agency to these employees that may otherwise feel they have no control over company policies. The wants of deskless workers do not differ much from those of desk-based workers, but the execution of the policies will differ, so employers need to be willing to experiment and quickly implement new programs to test.

Published on: September 16, 2022

Authors: Margaret Faso

Topics: COVID-19 Employer Issues, Employee Relations, Jobs, Skills and Training

Margaret Faso

Director of Health Care Research and Policy, American Health Policy Institute and HR Policy Association

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Contact Margaret Faso LinkedIn

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