The Unique Challenges of the Deskless Worker

Happy young Asian doctor in scrubs texting with smartphone inside empty hospital

Written by: Matt Kunkel

Reviewed by:
Updated: March 16, 2022

Table of contents

Technology has increased worker effectiveness around the world. Yet, technology-enabled advancements for workers have not filtered through the workforce equally. According to a survey by Emergence Capital, only 20% of workers globally sit behind a desk, yet 99% of the $300B investment in enterprise software annually is targeted to their specific needs. This disproportionate investment in desked workers comes at the expense of the deskless workforce, which is concentrated in industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, retail, agriculture, construction, and transportation and does not require a desk to work. 

Although deskless workers represent a broad swath of the economy, they have limited access to technology to improve their productivity, effectiveness, and job satisfaction. This is not due to a lack of demand. In fact, 70% of deskless workers want access to and improvement in tools specific to their operations, logistics, communications, onboarding, and training responsibilities. 

Desked workers can successfully operate from a remote location or from a centralized office given access to the right infrastructure—frequently a laptop, Internet connection, and access to the relevant software tools. This flexibility makes it easy to integrate technology to serve desked workers across a variety of industries. 

Jobs for deskless workers have significantly more diverse requirements, spanning on-site to mobile locations, customer-facing to operational responsibilities, and requiring specialized to non-technical knowledge. This diversity means that the differing requirements faced by deskless workers require dedicated technology to address their unique risks.  

Increased Mobility

Deskless workers tend to be more mobile. In some cases, the roles are physically demanding while in others, workers are traveling greater distance by foot or transport. As a result, the tools they use must be similarly mobile. Although 83% of deskless workers are provided with a laptop or PC, they may be better served by more mobile technology such as smartphones, smartwatches, or tablets. This would allow the technology to meet them where they are, rather than organizing their workday to accommodate the limits of the technology available to them. 

Reduced Flexibility

Many deskless workers are unable to work remotely, having limited flexibility and relatively less autonomy in their roles. Being physically present to do their work means they need dedicated tools and training to work safely and effectively. Access to relevant technology can partially offset their increased exposure to health and safety risks. As an example, having instant access to training, work instructions, best practices, and troubleshooting procedures for a manufacturing worker on a factory floor will support their own safety and productivity. 


Where deskless workers are not given access to tools that support their responsibilities, 56% are adopting their own technology to fill those gaps, according to Emergence Capital. This ad hoc approach presents significant security risks, including exposure to a potential data breach, failure to adhere to privacy laws, and unknown gaps in the organization’s security perimeter. Providing the tools, technology, and training deskless workers need for their jobs will help organizations better manage their cyber risk. 


The essential roles of deskless workers require robust communication tools. In industries such as healthcare, retail, or utility, they are the face of the organization for customers. Dedicated technology can help this distributed workforce stay connected with what’s happening and support their unique needs such as inventory management or customer records. In industries such as manufacturing or construction, deskless workers may hold essential knowledge and critical information gleaned over years of work. Too often, this knowledge lives in their heads and is lost when the employee leaves the organization. A centralized repository can capture this institutional knowledge and support worker efficiency, health, and safety. 

Cultural Integration

Many deskless workers work independently or may have a singular point of contact, such as a supervisor, within the company. As a result, their exposure to and participation in the organizational culture is limited. Technology can improve cultural integration for deskless workers by providing a better onboarding experience, ongoing training, and interactive communication channels. Stronger engagement by deskless workers, who tend to have higher turnover than desked workers, results in increased job satisfaction, longer retention, and better recruitment. 

How LogicGate can Help

A holistic and centralized GRC platform is critical regardless of where your workforce is located. Our flexible solutions can meet you where you are and support your unique risks to empower your teams and move with agility. 

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