Don’t Leave Your Essential Workers Behind!

Most of the problems non-desk workers face stem from a lack of timely and proper communication. Bridging this communication gap is key to keeping an engaged and productive essential workforce.

Do you know that 80 per cent of the entire global workers are made up of essential, non-deskbound employees?

They are the ones who keep our hospitals, transportation, telecommunications, retail, manufacturing, and construction running despite the threat of Covid-19. It’s hard to admit but ever since the pandemic began, companies are focused on empowering the 20 per cent who are bound to their desks. They enjoy work from home arrangements, flexi-time, and many other perks and benefits. On the other hand, the real plight of essential workers who are out and about every day doing the dirty work is rarely put in the spotlight.

Until now.

6 Proofs that Essential Workers are Left Behind

The risks of essential workers catching Covid-19 is significantly higher compared to white-collar workers who work in their homes or offices. Below are telltale proofs that they are struggling and need help.

1# Essential workers are not happy with their work

Studies show that around 60 per cent of essential workers are unhappy with their work environment. And if given the chance, they are most likely to quit for good. No surprise here. Companies have struggled to attract and retain essential workers mostly due to their relatively lower pay, lack of benefits, and higher risks of getting infected. Industries where essential workers are dominant experience high turnover rates.

2# Essential workers don’t feel they belong

It all adds up. The lack of timely communication and the huge gap in pay and benefits are causing 80 per cent of essential workers to feel that they are not part of the group. More so, many of them believe that managers see them as temporary employees that can be replaced anytime.

3# Essential workers don’t receive up to date communications

Do you know that more than 80 per cent of essential workers don’t have a corporate email address? Because most essential workers are out there on the field, on the shop, or the factory floors, managers find it extremely hard to pass on timely communications to them. Most of these essential employees don’t have access to tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or the company’s intranet mostly because their companies did not bother to invest in providing such technologies for this portion of the workforce.

Poor workplace communication can lead to:
  • Essential employees not being aligned with the company’s strategy
  • Essential workers not able to connect to the company’s core values
  • Essential workers not having a voice in the organisation

4# Essential workers can’t access important information as fast and easily as their deskbound counterparts

Access to important information when you need it is a big challenge for employees. More so for essential workers who have limited access to information and technology. Unlike regular office workers who constantly have internet and access to the company’s knowledgebase and intranet, essential workers who are on the frontlines usually spend 1.8 hours more trying to track down a colleague or looking for specific internal information. This huge disparity in information access can have a detrimental impact on an essential worker’s morale and productivity at work.

5# Essential workers are voiceless

This is an obvious one. Because most essential workers are hard to reach, they often feel neglected and voiceless. More than 40% of essential workers feel they are not valued and loved and that their ideas are not being heard by their employers.

Source: Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata, EPI Current Population Survey Extracts, Version 1.0.2 (2020),
Source: Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata, EPI Current Population Survey Extracts, Version 1.0.2 (2020),

6# Essential workers are disengaged and not connected

Let’s admit it, most communication and engagement tools and strategies are designed around white-collar workers on a desk. Companies that don’t invest in engagement tools for their frontline, deskless workers often suffer from low morale and lack of productivity.

Employee Net Promoter Score (also known as eNPS) is a metric that helps you determine how your employees feel about your company. It's an indicator based on Net Promoter Score, a well-known metric to measure customer experience.
Employee Net Promoter Score (also known as eNPS) is a metric that helps you determine how your employees feel about your company. It’s an indicator based on Net Promoter Score, a well-known metric to measure customer experience.

Fixing the Issue: Bridging the Communication Gap

Non-desk workers are no new phenomenon. For centuries, the majority of the world has worked this way and we are not expecting that to change soon. Here’s the truth: the entire world economy needs essential workers. Without retail associates, subcontractors, truck drivers, healthcare providers, etc., the entire globe will come to halt.

If you look at closely the challenges outlined above, it all boils down to one thing: communication. Communicating effectively and promptly is important with every employee — more so for essential workers. Here are some tips on how to bridge the communication gap and engage your essential workers more:

📲 Use mobile technology

Mobile technology has changed the way we work and live. Over the last decade, people have become accustomed to using their mobile phones for almost everything. Doesn’t it make sense to apply this technology to the workplace as well?

The most straightforward way of using mobile technology to connect with your non-desk workers is through text messaging. This can be an effective tool because it is highly likely that employees will at least see the message, which may not be the case for email.

Another effective way of using mobile technology is utilising call-in numbers where essential workers can listen to a pre-recorded message from their supervisor or manager.

ℹ️ Use smartphone apps that allow immediate access to important information

Have you ever considered turning your company intranet or knowledge base into a smartphone app? Or at the very least, make them mobile-friendly? Instant access to information is gaining a lot of interest nowadays because of the “microlearning” concept. According to experts, information is more impactful when consumed by the end-user in short bursts and when they are available during a time of need. Remember this concept when you are thinking about what messages to share with your essential workers.

Use mobile applications that offer the ability to customize information for the end-user, curate information libraries, and provide instant access to critical information. Additionally, companies who use employee apps report a 47 per cent improvement in internal communications and a 23 per cent increase in employee satisfaction.

🖨️ Print is not dead

While we live in a digital age, it’s important to remember that not all communication with your essential workers needs to be virtual. Don’t forget to use print to get your message across! This can be through mirror clings, breakroom posters, table tents, direct mail, or brochures. Every day, people are bombarded with digital messages. Delivering your communication in print can be a sight for sore eyes for your employees.

Another way to engage your non-desk employees through print is by issuing a company magazine or newsletter. Essential workers tend to take great pride in these print pieces especially when their important contributions to the company’s success are featured.

Because print is easy to share among friends and family, you need to carefully consider the information you share. Sensitive company information is not ideal. If you don’t know where to start, consider pieces and materials that highlight the company’s culture or an employee’s contribution as a starting point.

🔋 Empower your direct managers and supervisors

Managers of your essential workers play a critical role in passing down information and making sure that your non-desk workers stay engaged and in the loop. If your direct supervisors don’t have the training or tools to make this happen, then expect the issues we’ve presented above to worsen over time.

Training your supervisors and providing them with the necessary toolkits is key. The goal is to make them effective information disseminators. Of course, passing on information from the top to your essential workers is not without its challenges. Remember that managers are not equal. Some are great communicators, while others struggle. Communication styles also differ from one manager to another. There’s also the issue of timing, consistency, and thoroughness. The last thing your want is for some bits of information to get lost in translation. To mitigate this, consider developing resources to make cascading important information as simple as possible. Making this process easier for managers enhances the consistency of the message throughout the organization and the likelihood that they will deliver the messages appropriately.

🛫 Get the senior leadership on board

Hearing from the corporate leadership is important for essential workers. And conversely, not receiving any communications from the C-suite shows a lack of respect for the roles they play in the organisation. Appreciating and valuing essential workers should always begin from the top.

We know that top-down communication is important. But so is the bottom-up communication between the essential workforce and senior leadership. To feel that they belong, non-desk workers want their voices to be heard. Here are some of the ways you can do this:

  • holding regular town hall meetings
  • creating focus groups
  • rounding or site visits
  • conducting all staff meetings that are specific to your essential workers

The visibility and approachability of the senior leadership is key to promoting two-way communication and engaging essential workers.


Remember that essential workers are always at the forefront of your business. In a sense, they are your brand ambassadors and how they perform will have a significant impact on your company’s image and bottom line. Effective two-way communication is critical in keeping your essential workers engaged, valued, and appreciated.


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Written By

Lenmark Anthony Baltazar

I have been living a life of HR for as long as I can remember. My experiences helped me realize that true happiness comes from being a blessing to the lives of others. I hope my skills and talents will be a blessing to you as well.