Why you should offer autonomy and flexibility to deskless workers

Why you should offer autonomy and flexibility to deskless workers

Offering flexible working can help overcome recruitment challenges, improve retention and bring priority groups back into the workforce. The culture around flexible work is changing, now is the time to invest in flexibility for frontline workers


Frontline and deskless workers – such as medical staff, teachers, cleaners, retail assistants and construction workers – make up almost half of all UK employees. Yet, according to research from Timewise, a UK social enterprise shaping flexible working policy and practice, just three per cent of shift workers have any flexibility in their roles. Frontline workers may be allocated shift and work times with very limited consideration for their personal work preferences. 

This is causing a knock-on effect on recruitment and retention as people who want, or need, flexibility seek it elsewhere. Gartner research indicates that flexible working is high on the agenda for frontline workers, with compensation, shift stability, work-life balance and flexibility among the top priorities for attracting frontline workers. 

When it comes to retention, a 2021 Boston Consulting Group survey reinforces that more than half of deskless workers want more autonomy and choice in when, where, and how much they work with 50 per cent citing lack of flexibility as a reason to quit. To cite just one industry example, although salary is an important factor for recruitment and retention, many teachers who leave the profession are not necessarily transferring to higher paid roles. Instead, they seem more motivated by improved job satisfaction, reduced working hours and more flexibility.