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Only 13% of the 2.7 billion deskless workers worldwide have paid sick time

Limited benefits, inflexible schedules, and exposure to the coronavirus are concerns for those working in industries such as agriculture, hospitality, healthcare, retail, and education.

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Despite how instrumental in daily life, deskless workers are getting the shifts and, unfortunately, the shaft. A new report from Quinyx gauged how deskless workers contend with new regulations, technologies, and global challenges, but are less likely to have health benefits, when compared to those who work in an office.

Deskless workers are people who don’t work in an office or corporate environment, but are farmers, psych techs, grocery store workers, hotel desk staff, sales clerks, and assistant teachers (among many others).

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Quinyx’s report polled 1,200 Americans who identified themselves as deskless workers and the differences they experience, in regards to scheduling, sick time, wages, and communication, and found that they have major struggles with a work-life balance. Seventy-four percent go to work when they’re sick and 47% worry that switching shifts may get them fired. One in four said they’d choose a flexible work schedule over making more money.

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the needs–and frankly, work availability–for deskless workers, with 14% still going into work during the coronavirus crisis, and 24% losing their jobs because of COVID-19.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

Working while sick

The deskless workforce take their jobs very seriously, with 74% working while sick, since only 13% have paid sick leave. Those who work in retail and transportation were most likely to work while sick and are also most likely to have frequent contact with customers, thus creating health concerns for consumers.


Image: WalletHub

During the pandemic, deskless workers continued to work–even if they had symptoms. Why? 48% said they needed money for household expenses, 30% said there was no one to cover their shift, and 16% worried they’d lose their jobs if they called in sick.

Pay was the number one reason deskless workers chose to come into work sick. The highest percentage of those working-while-sick were those in hotel and food service. The industries breakdown as follows:

  • 63% hotel and food service
  • 53% retail
  • 45% transportation
  • 39% healthcare


Deskless workers’ schedules lack flexibility

  • 31% left a job because their employer didn’t provide schedules in advance
  • 39% were forced to call out of work because they couldn’t find someone to take over their shift
  • 41% say system restrictions prevented them from switching shifts with a co-worker
  • 47% believe switching a shift would be perceived as negative to their bosses

Work-life balance
Quinyx found the inflexible schedules created a dramatic work-life imbalance, with the majority of deskless workers missing a social event or major milestone because of inflexible schedules. Rigid schedules also caused more than half miss out on sleep, meals, and personal time.

  • 70% missed social events or holiday celebrations
  • 68% lost personal time
  • 49% missed major family/friend milestones
  • 34% missed educational activities

Image: WalletHub

Common perception, the report revealed, is that deskless workers were temporary workers, but most stayed in the positions for up to three years. Still, retention is a concern, with 61% planning to stay one to three years in their current job, 37% believe their employers see them as disposable or as a temporary worker, and 64% are so dissatisfied they’ve considered quitting. And, it’s the younger generation, Millennials and Gen-Z, who are twice as likely as older generations to be in the process of looking for another job.


Image: WalletHub

Income loss

Loss of job, loss of hours, and alternatively, too many hours plague the deskless worker.


Image: WalletHub

COVID-19 losses and a tiny gain

Deskless workers actually feel more valued now than pre-pandemic, with 37% saying they didn’t feel valued before COVID-19, and 27% saying they didn’t feel valued after COVID-19, which Quinyx’s report attributed to increased communication and “a more human approach to workplace engagement.”

The coronavirus pandemic also made deskless workers start thinking about benefits or security, with 18% who worked during COVID-19 planning to leave for better job security, and 29% who lost their jobs, to find one in a different industry with better benefits and security.

Relying on Millennials

The report stated “As a ‘mobile-first”‘ generation, Millennial and Gen Z workers are receiving more ‘out-of-hours’ contact from employers than baby boomers. This could be a result of the ‘always connected’ generations.”

COVID-19 era communication

During the pandemic

  • 12% said employers didn’t provide enough information 
  • 10% said their employer provided unclear or confusing information
  • 35% said their employer didn’t provide adequate training or direction on how to do their job during the pandemic

Deskless workers say they were uncomfortable talking to their managers during the pandemic, and this created a health risk.

  • 19% didn’t know what to do if they felt sick or may have contracted COVID-19
  • 28% didn’t know what to do if a loved one had COVID-19
  • 25% had concerns about compensation or job security 
  • 43% didn’t know if they would still receive a bonus or a pay raise based on their 2019 work

Deskless workers and the 2020 presidential candidates

Deskless workers want policies to improve their jobs and quality of life and don’t feel prioritized by the 2020 presidential candidates.

  • 44% make $11 to $15 an hour
  • 41% have a “side hustle” or second job
  • 5% work three jobs to make ends meet
  • 53% will vote for a presidential candidate who supports raising wages
  • 34% don’t believe 2020 presidential candidates are focused on issues that impact them and their families
  • 17% were undecided who to vote for pre-COVID, but now have a candidate in mind
  • 12% will vote for a different presidential candidate based on response during COVID-19

What matters most to deskless workers

  • 38% said support from family and friends
  • 37% federal financial aid
  • 10% local community support
  • 3% non-profit organization support

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