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While knowledge workers and other desk-bound employees can take advantage of any number of available communications and collaboration tools, enabling frontline employees with similar capabilities proves to be a unique challenge.
Frontline employees, which include customer-facing field service technicians, retail staff, hotel cleaning staff and warehouse forklift drivers, are either highly mobile or share a workstation. Equipping this workforce with the appropriate tools for their jobs requires both an understanding of how employees work and a bit of creativity.
Often, the simplest approach to supporting frontline workers is through a communications provider's mobile app. For simple telephony, basic team collaboration, chat and some conferencing capabilities, mobile apps can enable frontline collaboration using corporate-issued phones or a worker's own mobile device. But some considerations should be taken when empowering workers with mobile apps. For example, the Microsoft Teams mobile app includes provisions to ensure that hourly employees don't receive or interact with the tool during off hours.
Beyond mobile apps, ruggedized endpoints -- durable endpoints made to withstand use in rough environments -- or other dedicated devices may be required. For example, a mobile app is not well suited to a delivery driver, particularly in parts of the country that prohibit using mobile devices while driving. In addition, medical or industrial environments can make standard smartphones impractical since many of these work environments can be dangerous for glass screens, and in many cases, workers won't have a free hand to use them. In these cases, organizations may have to seek out devices and gear specifically tailored to their vertical industry.
In the past, dedicated devices had limited functionality compared to full-featured collaboration apps. New offerings, such as Theatro Communicators, are incorporating AI and voice assistance to replace basic walkie-talkies with intelligent communications offerings.
Finally, APIs, communications platform as a service (CPaaS) offerings and business application integrations enable businesses to embed communications and collaboration capabilities into core business applications. Embedded communications enable frontline employees to communicate and collaborate with co-workers or customers from within business applications they use daily. CPaaS will likely play an increasingly larger role in frontline worker empowerment as more organizations embrace its embedded communications capabilities.
Ultimately, enabling communications and collaboration among frontline employees has significant benefits, including access to the same channels as the corporate office, streamlined workflows and enhanced productivity. But supporting these efforts requires careful consideration of how those parts of the workforce best operate within your organization. And find options that streamline, rather than complicate, the daily work of frontline employees.
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