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A new report focusing on frontline workers facing burnout and other challenges encourages concludes that digital tools may help to alleviate them. The report, published by Microsoft, is based on interviews with more than  9,600 frontline workers from eight industries and eight countries.  and proposes technology as a solution to help address issues and burnout impacting frontline workers.

In particular, the report exhorts business leaders to bolster frontline culture by increasing appreciation and communicating clearly well as as train employees properly on new tech.

The pandemic hit frontline workers hard. Initially, the public applauded them for their heroism. However, as the pandemic drags on into the third year, people have become not only complacent, but sometimes even hostile towards frontline workers. According to the Microsoft report, over 2 billion comprise this frontline workforce, from healthcare workers to grocery store clerks to power grid employees. This group historically is undeserved by technology, the report said.

Build a Culture of Caring

Some frontline workers reported an increased bond and connection with coworkers as a result of shared stress brought on by the pandemic but many said they felt under appreciated, especially by superiors. Several reported experiencing a lack of communication contributed to their burnout. In particular, managers on the frontlines said they did not feel like messaging from their bosses trickled down appropriately and communication was lacking. [Click below to enlarge.]

Specifically a majority (51%) of non-management position frontline workers reported not feeling valued as employees, according to the report. As well, a majority indicated a desire for increased help to address physical exhaustion (60%) as well as mental health (57%).

Inflection Point Reached for Frontline

In November, 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs, according to the report. However, most did not leave the workforce entirely, but rather sought out other jobs. Of note, workers indicated the following motivating factors for looking for alternative work, the report said: desire for better work-life balance, potential for raises, higher salary, increased benefits, and additional flexibility in how they work.

“50% of frontline healthcare workers in non-management positions do not feel valued as employees and 57% are excited about the job opportunities technology is bringing to their industry,” said David Rhew, Microsoft’s global chief medical officer and vice president of Healthcare. “The first stat presents an urgent need for healthcare leaders in management positions to take a step back and reassess how they are interacting with and supporting their frontline workers. The second stat highlights that the majority of frontline healthcare workers feel that technology can help address this burnout. In fact, technology was ranked higher than mental health benefits as a potential means to alleviate work-related stress. Though technology isn’t going to solve all the challenges facing frontline healthcare workers today, it can help  alleviate some of the major stressors that frontline workers face today and help management understand if and when to intervene.”

Increased Demand for Technology

Technology played an increased role in many companies during the pandemic. Historically, some workers worried technology would make their jobs obsolete, the report stated. However, 63% now reported excitement over job opportunities created by tech, according to the report. In fact, better technology ranked third behind pay increase and paid time off among list of things that can reduce stress. [Click below to enlarge.]

During the pandemic, many companies implemented additional technology, from increases in telehealth options for patients to virtual meeting platforms for management to video calls to troubleshoot issues on factory floors. Usage of Microsoft Teams ± which is similar to Google Meet or Zoom Z— alone saw a monthly increase of 400% in aggregate on the frontlines from March 2020 to November 2021, the report said.

Additional Tech Training Needed

Frontline workers reported a lack of both technology as well as a lack of training in the tech they do have to do the best in their jobs, the report found. For example, 55% of frontline workers surveyed stated they needed to implement tech and digital tools in the moment on the job without prior formal training, according to the report.

This gap in implementing technology and training workers to use it was not specific to one field. The report found this issue in industries ranging from transportation to healthcare to hospitality.

However, the report did note a gap by age of employees affected. Specifically workers 41 and older reported difficulty adapting to new technology. Workers younger than 41 expressed frustration with inadequate tech, the report said. [Click below to enlarge.]

Report Recommendations

As a result of their findings, the report made several recommendations for business leaders moving forward. First, the report recommended companies implement clearer communication, ideally two ways, to help leadership understand the issued facing frontline workers and to appropriately acknowledge their hard work. Second, implement and train employees on the right tech tools to ease daily burdens that tech can address. Lastly, the report recommends making training a priority to ensure everyone understands how to maximize the tech on hand.

Photo: elenabs, Getty Images; graphs, Microsoft Report

 

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