Empowering field and frontline workers: five ways

Transform field and frontline work, granting autonomy and flexibility to future-proof operations.

Empowering field and frontline workers: five ways

Transform field and frontline work, granting autonomy and flexibility to future-proof operations.

Field and frontline workers are the backbone of many organisations, and often the closest point of contact to your customers, patients or citizens. Traditionally, these employees are ‘out in the field’, whether that be delivery drivers, field engineers, plumbers or construction employees. Or on the frontline, where you have nurses, doctors, healthcare professionals or social workers, supermarket staff or train drivers. 

Globally, Gartner estimates there are 2.7 billion frontline workers, more than twice the number of desk-based workers.

The value that these employees bring to your organisation is undeniable, yet since the pandemic, they have been underserved by emerging workplace trends such as hybrid working or the prospect of a four-day week.

However, there’s a lot to learn from how office-based roles have adapted, and organisations have an exciting opportunity to reinvent work for the field and frontline to give them more autonomy and flexibility, and in turn, future-proof their ways of working. 

Here are five ways to empower your field and frontline workers as part of your digital transformation strategy.

1. Understanding the challenges that the frontline faces

When trying to understand the challenges your field or frontline workforce might face, it can be tempting to think of technology as a quick fix that will have an immediate impact. However, it’s important not to deploy technology for technology’s sake. The key to getting it right at this stage is starting small, experimenting with your teams who will be using the technology and adapting the design so that it is properly integrated and can have demonstrable impact. 

There can be a real disconnect between the frontline and the head office, but this is the most important part of your strategy – by listening to those who are in the thick of it each day, you can ensure new systems and technology will be adopted enthusiastically. 

Your field and frontline workforce are busy serving customers, citizens, or patients, often in high pressured environments. Therefore, to make the connection between their day-to-day now and how you can make improvements, you need to observe the way they’re doing their job.

This will help you to understand how you can potentially take some of the pressure away, offer more autonomy and flexibility, and ensure that the ‘human’ factor stays front of mind whilst you innovate ways of working.

2. Digital infrastructure and collaboration

Digital communications and collaboration tools really came into their own during the pandemic. We learned how to build social engagements remotely, through teams and collaboration, and how to build shared values and shared missions when people are distributed in lots of different places and environments.

But why should the traditional office worker be the only beneficiary? We’re now seeing infrastructure evolve to enable and better empower field and frontline workers, who have never been better connected. With the latest mobile technology and increased network speed, they’re easily reachable and feel more included than ever before.


By 2024, companies offering frontline workers democratized access to digital collaboration, process automation, and similar tools will see a 20% increase in revenue due to improved productivity.


Collaboration is becoming natively embedded, which is exciting because it makes it effortless to work with others no matter where you are or what you’re doing. 

Typically, frontline workers were waiting 20 minutes to reach someone or to be reachable, but with collaboration being built into the network now, this process has become much more efficient. It also allows everyone in the organisation to be part of serving the customer, patient, or citizen, which is a much more inclusive way of working.

Organisations can also reduce unnecessary journeys – if you can digitally enable your workers to do their work anywhere, they don’t need to go back to base to do paperwork or in-person training.  The office can be their car or van because everything they need is on their smartphone or tablet. With the time saved, your workforce can be increasingly productive but also work in a more cost-efficient, inclusive and sustainable way.

3. Securing the future of work

The pressures that field and frontline workers are under and their distributed nature are key when thinking about your approach to security. The Security Insight Report by Jamf found that 33% of organisations have had security compromised due to mobile devices. 

Here are four ways to protect your worker’s and organisation’s devices and data.


This is the first line of defence when it comes to protecting your data and devices in the field. Employees will need to understand what a suspect email or message might look like, and what they shouldn’t click on, which might not be immediately obvious. Think about the way your cyber-security training is delivered – it needs to be engaging and delivered easily on their remote devices.


You can’t manage what you can’t see. Make sure you know who’s got access to your data and information, who has a password for a particular device and who is working remotely. With full visibility of all your remote devices, you can block or wipe them remotely, or reset passwords if they’ve been lost or have fallen into the wrong hands.


This is all about getting the basics right. Set policies to ensure you’re updating operating systems for the latest threat detection and malware protection. 80% of attacks come from zero-day vulnerabilities or exploitations, if you haven’t got the latest operating system or the latest software on those devices, you’re going to be vulnerable. Design policies to make sure those updates happen, even when the workforce and the devices are distributed. 


Build a community of partners to help and advise you. There are some trusted organisations out there like the NCSC, who can provide you with cyber training and essential training and support at very affordable levels. Our cybersecurity experts at BT can also work as an extension of your in-house team, supporting you with a bespoke solution for your organisation. 

4. Artificial intelligence, real-world benefits

Revolutionising collaboration with AI transcription

There has been a lot of innovation with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and how data can be used to empower people. Take transcription, for example, and its potential to make collaborative work easier. 

Using AI to transcribe a conversation is a quick way to recall what was said, what was agreed and the summary of actions from that meeting. Transcription tools have been around for a while, but with AI we can ask questions and get instant answers. What was the address for the meeting? What time did we agree to?  What tools or equipment do we need?

Streamlining social work with AI efficiency

Social workers must deal with a lot of governance and compliance, so often only 20% of their time is spent with the families they’re trying to help, and the rest of their time is consumed by forms, data and analysis.

So, as a busy social worker looking after the welfare of a family, having AI that can say ‘Here's the notes from your last meeting’ or ‘Here’s the actions we agreed’ is going to make a huge difference. AI can save them time and reduce stress, so they can focus on the practical actions that will make a real difference.

Inclusive innovations for a connected future

Emerging technologies also open a lot of doors for organisations to be more inclusive; some great innovations are happening now, for example, enabling subtitles onto augmented reality glasses. This allows workers who might be hard of hearing, whether they’re on the patient or the client side or on the worker’s side, to be fully engaged in the work.

It can also be used for real-time translation to help overcome any language difficulties that could arise for workers or the people they are interacting with as part of their day. In other environments, I’ve seen teachers using that technology in the classroom to include people who have different learning skills and different ways of learning.

5. Evolve with new developments

It’s important to make space in your strategy for ongoing developments, whether that be with your employees or the needs of your clients and customers. Gathering feedback at regular intervals can allow you to see any pain points to focus your efforts on as a priority and will also help you to understand what would make their experience with your organisation the best it can be. 

A recent example of this in the health sector is the new virtual wards we have set up to support the NHS and other healthcare providers to help manage patient care. Virtual wards give patients access to the healthcare services they need remotely, safely and conveniently, outside of a hospital setting.

This follows BT research that found 74% of NHS staff agree that technology helps to deliver better quality care, while the current standard of technology at work is a source of stress for 49%. From smart devices that monitor health conditions like COPD and heart disease, to AI-backed software that enables clinicians to perform virtual ward rounds, the new solutions are enabling the NHS to have demonstrable impact on the patient experience.