Top 5: Key differentiators for deskless workers

1 — No big screen

In the digital world a screen is everything — the bigger, the better. If you have a desk, it’s easy to have a large screen in front of you, maybe two or three in parallel. A big screen displays visual information clearly and beautifully, allowing you to flip between windows and tabs. A big screen is great.

2 — No storage space

What does your desk look like? There’s your laptop, your screens, your phone, there might be a coffee mug and a set of keys. I bet in many cases there are still print outs, files and folders, books, PostIts, notebooks and all manner of legacy paperwork from the analog world. This is exactly what your desktop is made for, to store whatever you need to do your job with no regard for space.

3 — No hands free

A deskless worker’s job usually involves doing something with their hands. Steering a vehicle, holding a tool, assembling parts of a production line. Often the workflow is a sequence of various steps all requiring (and thus blocking) the hands. Or consider the delivery driver: holding a steering wheel, grabbing a scanner device, carrying a parcel… there’s not a single moment where the hands are really free.

4 — One task at the time

If you’re sitting at a desk, you usually do many things in parallel. You are multitasking. While writing this piece (at my desk), I’m looking on my phone to check who just sent me a Signal message. Not so if you are a deskless worker. Parallel tasks are difficult to perform. And if workers are busy with a task, additional information can very easily create cognitive overload. Anyone who has tried to navigate across an unfamiliar roundabout while fielding an important business phone call can empathise with the difficulties felt here.

5 — Safety first

Desks are not dangerous — at least not according to the statistics. What is rather more likely is for a critical situation to arise while driving a 20 ton truck in bad weather, or while repairing a wind turbine on a 150 meter mast, or while working in a car assembly plant alongside robots. Deskless mobile workers have a much higher risk of getting injured, so limiting distraction is essential.

  • Using a voice assistant in your kitchen with a stable wifi connection to carry out a simple task like playing a song or setting a timer, and:
  • The assistant anticipating your needs in advance and providing the exact information to you when you need it most. Relevant, timely and intelligent.
  • Voice-first human-machine interaction. If I don’t have a big screen and I’m busy with something important, voice is superior to any graphical information. Even if the system shows me the right details, it is of little help if I cannot read it.
  • Typing, writing and paperwork are all impossible for a deskless worker in many situations. A voice assistant is a perfect tool to fill out forms or send information back into a system.
  • Voice solves the hands full problem. Admittedly voice can not replace your hands, but it’s a good way to support them. Imagine a repair person has both hands busy with tools while working to fix an elevator, and needs to know technical details from a handbook. Instead of interrupting the job and searching manually, a short question to the assistant will provide the answer.
  • Voice assistants have one clear advantage for deskless workers: they are less distracting and faster than other forms of communication. Less distraction means a higher level of safety and lower levels of stress. This results in happier people, and happier people tend to be more productive. Win-win.

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