How companies can create engaged mobile workforces during coronavirus and beyond

Mobile workers face higher turnover and unique stressors, compared to their stationary counterparts ― these strategies will help reduce your workforce's burnout

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Deskless workers, from solar technicians to in-home healthcare professionals, experience higher rates of turnover than their stationary counterparts. Factors ranging from commuting stress to lack of predictability pushes these mobile workers out the door more quickly than traditional office workers — and the pressure has only risen since pandemic restrictions were enacted. 

But deskless workers aren’t the only ones under pressure. Organizations are increasingly challenged to manage the cost of mobile employee turnover. For example, home healthcare agencies face an average attrition rate of 66% each year. Poor employee retention comes at a high price tag for these organizations, which must repeatedly recruit, hire and onboard new employees at an average cost of over $4,000 per hire

In the midst of these challenges enters COVID-19, a catalyst that has forced many organizations to digitally transform in a matter of weeks. Telehealth pilots and mobile-first initiatives have been thrust to the forefront of service organizations large and small struggling to  equip employees with the proper resources to succeed.

Why are deskless workers at a higher risk of burnout than their stationary counterparts?

Demand for deskless work on the frontline is constant, particularly with patients requiring physical therapy, nursing support or occupational therapy. To combat turnover and burnout, employers must understand the unique stressors that home health providers and other deskless workers face. From getting stuck in traffic while traveling to managing challenging patients, these employees experience unique pain points that employers struggle to effectively solve. 

Additionally, deskless workers lack the predictability of a traditional office setting and must build each day from scratch. While many contractors and in-home specialists have consciously sought dynamic work environments, work that looks different each day can take an emotional and physical toll and contribute to burnout. 

The stressors mobile workers experience are compounded by the new risks of burnout introduced by COVID-19. In-home workers put their personal health in jeopardy by visiting client homes, and may leave a job if they lack adequate support from managers and employers.

Reducing mobile workforce burnout

The pandemic has forced change on organizations across industries, and the time is now to adopt a comprehensive and compassionate approach to enabling and ensuring the well-being of your workforce. With robust training and thoughtful change management, mobile workforce organizations can improve employee well-being and reduce the costs associated with high turnover.

  • Connectivity is critical. Part of in-home providers or other mobile workers’ stress may involve inconsistent online access, especially in rural areas. Deskless workers must have tools with online and offline capabilities to communicate with team members, look up directions or log data. 
  • Equip employees with tools to feel safe and supported. Employers can combat burnout tied to safety concerns by providing workers with the proper information, protective equipment and safety protocols. This requires proactive and robust work on the part of managers, who must schedule regular check-ins with employees to ensure their team feels supported, prepared, mentally healthy and physically safe. 
  • Offer employees flexibility through dynamic scheduling. Traditionally, finding a last-minute substitute to cover a highly specialized appointment was a difficult process. This is particularly true during the current COVID-19 pandemic. While an office worker can easily find someone to sit in for a meeting, it’s harder for a physical therapist in remote Iowa to find a colleague to fill in, especially if their mobile device is offline. As a result, employees are left feeling that if they don’t deliver a service or provide care, nobody will. With dynamic scheduling solutions that map supply and demand in real time, technology relieves the burden of finding replacements and minimizes missed appointments. 
  • Provide efficient tools to log data and complete work on-site. The more work and service delivery deskless workers can complete in the field, the less time they spend completing administrative tasks off-site. However, most service technicians and physical therapists return home from a job with a stack of clerical work. Tools with offline capabilities allow workers to capture notes in the field, improving efficiency for workers and service delivery for customers. 

In short, organizations have a chance to eliminate the unnecessary friction deskless workers face on a daily basis, whether these obstacles are physical, emotional or digital. In removing barriers that otherwise dilute precious energy, organizations empower deskless workers to translate their hard work into impact for customers and ultimately feel more fulfilled in their work.

While many companies will continue tweaking business models as the new normal takes shape, they must view the changes created by the pandemic as positive opportunities. As technology becomes more sophisticated and deskless productivity tools boom, it’s on employers to ensure that frontline employees are equipped with the tools, processes and knowledge to grow and thrive.

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