Is the Future of Work Technology or People?

Even years before the thrust to global digitization due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the thought of technology in replacing workers dauntedly exists throughout the minds of the global mobility workforce. 

According to Pew Research, experts have mixed views. On one hand, 48% of the respondents predicted that robots and digital agents will replace a myriad of blue and white collared jobs. 52%, on the other hand, some thought it would create more jobs than it would take. 

Experts who don’t view technology as a replacement to workers believe it holds the ability to supplement human intelligence.

As the economic recovery begins to sustain momentum, many have observed that technological advancement has saved businesses from dying. One can argue that the current workforce is becoming more and more remote as businesses have realized the surge in demand for remote work opportunities. 

Additionally, observers have highlighted technology’s crucial role in enabling business continuity through augmenting human intelligence, not necessarily replacing it.

Tech giant Google has proven that the future of work does not solely rely on technology – it relies primarily on its people. In fact, it’s one of the many high-profile institutions who have been vocal in its excitement for its back-to-office strategies.

Technology and frontline workers

Though many companies look to prominent institutions as a basis for their own decision-making, most of these companies have a chunk of their workforce belonging to knowledge workers. 

So what of frontline workers? Assembly line production workers, the hotel frontdesk, construction workers, healthcare professionals, and other jobs which require onsite work have often been overlooked in the wake of all these remote work strategies in response to the pandemic. 

Emergence uses the term “Deskless Workforce” to define the 2.7 billion around the globe who don’t require a desk to operate. This workforce contributes 80% of the global workforce.

One might say that it’s a bit strange why there hasn’t been much dialogue on technological strategies for frontline workers. Fortunately, Emergence recognizes that there needs to be more energy exerted on integrating better, more innovative, and, most importantly, more suitable technology for frontline workers.

To better understand the thoughts of the deskless employees, Emergence together with Centiment surveyed around 1,500 deskless workers to understand how technology has or hasn’t been supporting their work daily and what they desire with regard to what type of technology is best suited for their type of work.

Let’s see some of the results:

  1. Frontline workers are increasingly dependent on technology to do their work

75% of the survey respondents spend most of their working day using technology

  1. Frontline workers acknowledges the value that technology provides to their work and wants more of it

70% of deskless workers note that more technological tools embedded in their daily work will support their ability to do their jobs better. They mentioned that technology has helped in communications, operations & logistics, onboarding, and training.

  1. Deskless workers are provided desk-bound devices, but employers are starting to give mobile ones.

83% of deskless workers have been asked by their organizations to use unsuitable devices. Most of them were provided with hardware such as desktop PCs or laptops.

However, employers have observed the misplaced use of these specific devices and now have started providing frontliners with a smartphone or a tablet.

  1. Frontline workers are not satisfied with the technology they’re provided with

60% of the respondents admitted that they’re unsatisfied or believe there is room for improvement with the technology assigned to them. They highlighted that the technology is slow, inefficient, and not user-friendly,

  1. Frontliners are filling technology gaps themselves without support from their employers

More than half of the survey respondents had to be resourceful, and used technology they used in their personal life to aid them in their tasks at work.

For businesses to move forward, business leaders need to acknowledge that a huge percentage of the global mobility workforce clearly expresses their need for technology just as much as knowledge workers are concerned. 

They’d have to exert more intentionality to understand the specific needs of their deskless workforce. It would be best to tap people organizers such as global mobility and HR professionals to gather much needed information.