A new study by O.C. Tanner sheds light on the sentiments of deskless workers in the United Kingdom, revealing that over half of them, constituting a staggering 51 percent, believe they are perceived as expendable by their employers.

The 2024 Global Culture Report, which surveyed over 42,000 individuals worldwide, including 4,818 from the U.K. (1,734 of whom are deskless workers), also exposed a significant gap in perception between deskless employees and their desk-based counterparts.

Deskless workers, who make up 80 percent of the global workforce, play pivotal roles in emergency response, production, customer service, and organisational functionality.

Despite their essential contributions, the report suggests that many of these workers feel undervalued and marginalised.

“It was not long ago we were clapping the efforts of frontline workers, but many are now feeling unloved and that their contributions don’t matter,” remarks Stuart Cheesman, European Strategist of workplace culture expert, O.C. Tanner.

Not being taken seriously enough

Thirty percent of deskless workers admit to frequently experiencing condescension from corporate office counterparts, coupled with a sense of not being taken seriously by senior leadership. Furthermore, many feel that their ideas are swiftly minimised or dismissed.

“Undermining and diminishing the roles of deskless workers is not only morally wrong but isn’t good for business,” warns Cheesman. “When deskless workers are made to feel expendable, they are unlikely to stick around and deliver their best work. In contrast, when they feel seen and appreciated by their organisations, the business outcomes are significant, including improved staff retention and performance.”

The report emphasises the importance of educating leaders on how to effectively appreciate and recognise their deskless workers. This involves crafting meaningful and authentic recognition experiences, communicating messages that resonate with deskless employees, and fostering a strong sense of belonging for all.

Leadership understanding

Leadership understanding of deskless workers, including how they prefer recognition, correlates with a 350 percent greater likelihood that they will remain with their employer for another year. Additionally, they are 378 percent more likely to deliver exceptional work and 258 percent more likely to find fulfillment in their roles.

“Leaders can’t afford to neglect their deskless workers who are essential to their success,” asserts Cheesman. “They must ensure that all their people are regularly appreciated and respected for the jobs they do and the contributions they make. Doing so will nurture a compassionate and appreciative culture that ultimately delivers compelling bottom-line results.”

The findings of this report serve as a wake-up call for organisations to reevaluate their approach to deskless workers and recognise the crucial role they play in maintaining a healthy, thriving workforce.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.