Inflexibility, working while sick and not valued – new research reveals fragmented reality for UK’s deskless workforce

An annual international study exploring the attitudes and habits of deskless workers – everyone from care managers, lorry drivers and supermarket cashiers to warehouse operatives and restaurant staff - paints a fragmented UK picture of understaffing, high pressure, stressful working, and a lack of appreciation.

The findings have been released by Workforce Management Solutions provider, Quinyx, as part of its State of the Deskless Workforce report. It surveyed 1,500 people working in non-office-based roles, in the UK’s Health and Social Care, Fashion, Transportation & Warehousing, Shipping & Distribution, Retail and Hospitality sectors.

A staggering 55% of the 1,500 UK respondents have attended work when sick because they can't afford to stay home, with over half (52%) confessing that the company they work for is understaffed, and 83% of these citing that this has led to a more stressful work environment.

Almost 1 in 3 (32%) of the workers don’t feel valued by their employer and for most of these (59%), this is because they believe they’re viewed as a temporary or disposable resource.

The study also found that 54% lost out on personal time, 53% didn’t attend social events and holiday celebrations and nearly one third (30%) missed major family and friend milestones – such as weddings, births and funerals – due to scheduled work or requests from their employer.

When it comes to taking time off, 40% admitted to feeling pressured by co-workers into taking a shift they did not want, and one third felt that asking to change a shift for personal reasons would be perceived negatively by their boss. 

Lack of scheduling technology was identified as a cause of workplace tension too, with 69% being contacted by text or phone by their manager ‘out of hours’ and over a quarter unable to swap shifts due to employer or system restrictions.

In fact, 31% said a flexible schedule was top of the wish list in their job, even above higher pay, and 1 in 3 have left a job due to poor advance notice of their shifts. 

The report highlights a concerning lack of communication between managers and employees too, with over half uncomfortable addressing the impact of scheduling on their personal life, or how working conditions affect their physical and mental health.

Worryingly, amid a tough UK employment market, a significant 58% have considered quitting their job due to an unhappy work environment.

Toma Pagojute, Chief HR Officer at Quinyx, explains: “The pandemic has been a catalyst for some positive change across office-based industries, yet our report highlights the disparity for the nation’s deskless workforce. We hope the study provides useful insight for businesses operating in these sectors – so they can take steps to turn these negatives into positives.

“This report is an SOS signal from the deskless workforce. They are telling us they feel side-lined and that they need flexibility, improved dialogue with managers and control over their schedules, so they can achieve the work-life balance and job satisfaction that they so deserve - highlighting a clear requirement for much better systems to manage resources and demand. 

“To successfully navigate a post-pandemic world, the UK needs a motivated and productive deskless workforce. The good news is that help is available for businesses. Autonomous solutions that deliver and maintain transparent lines of communication within teams, alongside an effective scheduling tool for seamlessly swapping shifts, will help firms effectively navigate some of these challenges.”

The State of the Deskless Report surveyed over 10,000 people across the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands.

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