Deskless Workers Want Better Benefits

Benefits and Compensation Communication Coronavirus (COVID-19) employer

When candidates were controlling the hiring landscape, employers were bending over backward to meet jobseekers’ demands. However, that all shifted when the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. For employers that may be struggling to bring workers back on, may we offer this one suggestion? Try offering a better benefits package.

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According to new survey findings released by Quinyx, a workforce management platform, COVID-19 has created a demand for better benefits. Quinyx’s new report, “2020 State of the Deskless Workforce,” reveals what your deskless workers want, and COVID-19 has drastically changed their needs.

It’s worth noting that the Quinyx report was compiled using data from a March poll before many Americans experienced unprecedented levels of unemployment. Quinyx polled 1,200 U.S. adults who identify as deskless workers to understand how scheduling, sick time, wages, and communication impact their health and happiness.

Survey Says …

Before the COVID-19 health crisis, 3 in 4 (74%) deskless workers chose to go into work while they were sick, and challenges such as a lack of flexibility and sick time are likely to blame, with less than 1 in 5 (13%) workers saying they have paid sick leave. On top of that, nearly half (47%) of deskless workers also worried that switching shifts could get them fired.

Results showed workers were unable to achieve work/life balance, with 2 in 3 (66%) giving up sleep, hobbies, and normal eating habits due to inflexible schedules. Workers say they were also regularly forced to choose between their personal lives and their jobs, with the majority missing social events or holidays (70%) or major milestones such as funerals or weddings (49%) due to inflexible schedules.

Younger generations were more likely to feel tied to their job, with Gen Zs most likely to sacrifice social events (74%) and Millennials most likely to miss major milestones (52%) due to their work schedule.

Outside of schedules, workers struggled to maintain good communication with their employer. The majority of deskless workers (85%) reported their employer takes an “always-on” approach to communication, regularly contacting them when they are off hours.

Added to this, deskless workers feel uncomfortable coming to their employer or manager with questions about scheduling issues affecting their personal lives (25%), how working conditions impact their physical or mental health (35%), pay raise or wage disparities (33%), or a loss or an increase in work hours (25 %).

Deskless Workers in a Post-COVID-19 World

With COVID-19 universally altering Americans’ daily lives, Quinyx launched a second survey in April to understand how deskless workers were affected and how sentiment changed throughout the pandemic.

Findings showed deskless workers’ concerns and challenges didn’t necessarily change in the wake of COVID-19, but poor workplace practices are now putting both employees’ and customers’ health at risk. In fact, 1 in 7 (14%) still went to work sick during the pandemic, with half (48%) doing so because they couldn’t afford to lose pay. Industries where workers come in regular contact with consumers such as hotel and food services (63%) and retail (53%) were the most likely to go to work sick to make sure they could make ends meet.

Employees also faced similar communication problems as they did before COVID-19, with 1 in 5 (19%) saying they felt uncomfortable asking what to do if they felt ill, 1 in 5 (20%) feeling uncomfortable talking about concerns with working during the pandemic, and 1 in 4 (25%) feeling uncomfortable with discussing compensation or job security.

For those considered essential workers (68%), their communication troubles prevented them from receiving proper training during the pandemic. One in 3 (35%) essential workers say their employer did not provide adequate training or direction during the pandemic, including 1 in 7 (14%) who say they received no training at all.

“Deskless workers have always supported the backbone of the U.S. economy, but they can frequently be the ‘forgotten workforce,’ forced to manage with the little support they are provided by employers,” says Quinyx CEO and Founder Erik Fjellborg in a press release announcing the findings.

“It’s time to change the narrative and provide deskless workers with the same benefits and workplace flexibility that is seen in corporate environments,” Fjellborg adds. “If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown anything, it’s that offering deskless workers meaningful communication and the ability to balance their job and their personal life is essential for long-term health and happiness.”

Additional report findings show:

  • Deskless workers struggled to make ends meet even before COVID-19, and it’s causing them to feel disposable: Before COVID-19, deskless workers were taking on multiple jobs to make ends meet, with 2 in 5 (41%) saying they have a “side hustle.” In fact, almost half (44%) made $11–$15 an hour, which likely contributed to the sentiment among 1 in 3 (37%) deskless workers that their employer doesn’t value the work they do.
  • COVID-19 created a demand for better benefits: One in 4 (24%) deskless workers lost jobs during COVID-19, and 1 in 4 (29%) of those workers say they plan to now look for a new job in an industry that offers better benefits and job security. Even 1 in 5 (18%) who kept their jobs say they plan to leave for better benefits, such as sick leave.
  • Deskless workers didn’t feel heard by presidential candidates before the pandemic and still don’t: The same number of deskless workers said they don’t believe political candidates are addressing the issues they care about now (33%) as before COVID-19 (34%). However, candidates’ reactions during COVID-19 impact how 1 in 4 (29%) deskless workers will vote in the 2020 presidential election.

Survey Methodology

“2020 State of the Deskless Workforce” was based on a survey conducted in February 2020 (pre-COVID-19) and a second survey in March 2020 (during COVID-19) of 1,200 Americans 18+ who identify themselves as a deskless worker (i.e., they work a shift-based or an hourly schedule set by an employer, with the majority of their work time not “spent at a desk”) on topics related to scheduling, sick time, wages, and communication. The survey was conducted over mobile devices by survey company Pollfish. 

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