3 min

Four Keys to Supporting ‘Deskless’ Frontline Workers with ChromeOS

Organizations need devices designed to meet the unique needs of their employees.

Eighty percent of  workers around the globe are “deskless,” according to a report from Emergence Capital.

“Deskless” does not describe remote employees, but rather frontline workers in fields such as healthcare, manufacturing and retail. These individuals who are typically on the move during their workday, but still need a laptop or mobile device to help them do their job. Support for these workers brings a different set of challenges compared to desk-based, knowledge workers. In that same study by Emergence, 60 percent of deskless workers report being unsatisfied with the technology and “desk-bound devices” they’re forced to use in their day-to-day. They are underserved with antiquated tools and IT processes, which drive low productivity and high churn. Enabling this workforce requires more dynamic solutions; software and hardware that is flexible, secure and that can be configured to plug seamlessly into their distinct workflows. For small and mid-sized businesses, in particular, they also need these solutions to be cost effective and easy to implement and manage. These are the user challenges we think about daily at ChromeOS.

Flexible Tools to Meet a Variety of Needs

Because of Google’s large presence in K–12 education, people often think of this industry first when they consider ChromeOS. Schools love ChromeOS because of its secure, durable devices that come in a variety of form factors to meet the needs of students and faculty on the move.  What we’ve seen recently is that the characteristics that have made ChromeOS devices so popular in education extend across industries that need to support frontline workers. This is especially true in smaller businesses that put a premium on speed and efficiency. There are ChromeOS devices in all form factors — clamshell, convertible, tablet, desktop and all-in-one available from all major OEM’s. This variety provides the flexibility organizations need to support frontline workers who use devices in different ways from typical knowledge workers.

One industry where we see a particular strength need for this functionality is healthcare. Clinicians with smaller healthcare providers are mobile. They often have a home base but regularly visit patients in their homes. To meet this use case, these individuals are often equipped with a touch-screen convertible Chromebook. When they’re at a patient's home and interacting with them, they need to provide a more human touch. Instead of looking down and typing, they can fold the screen back and use it as a tablet with a stylus. When they’re done with the session, they can use the device in laptop mode to type up detailed notes. They do all this on one piece of hardware, that is durable enough to withstand rugged environments.

How Deskless Workers Can Secure Sensitive Data

Frontline workers (and their devices) handle a wide range of sensitive data, including intellectual property in manufacturing, patient information in healthcare and payment card data in retail. These workers need secure tools to handle this data as they engage in a variety of tasks. ChromeOS has been widely adopted to meet this challenge.

ChromeOS has never had a reported ransomware attack. Security is a primary consideration for businesses of all sizes, and the track record for ChromeOS is a key reason many organizations adopt these devices for their deskless employees. One primary reason ChromeOS is so secure is that ChromeOS users interact with information via cloud-based applications. The data they handle does not reside on the device itself; it lives in the cloud.

This means frontline workers can easily access mission-critical information from their ChromeOS device without putting their organization at risk. ChromeOS security features are also built into the OS itself, so organizations don’t need to invest in additional anti-virus software to keep their business data safe. We have found this to be especially attractive for small and midsized businesses that often lack resources to invest in significant cybersecurity tools or talent.

Centralized Management for Frontline IT Devices

Organizations that equip their mobile, frontline workers with shared devices need well-defined management practices to reinforce productive use of the devices and ensure the device environment does not sprawl out of control. Chrome Enterprise Upgrade is a device management solution that unlocks the built-in business capabilities of ChromeOS and ChromeOS Flex devices with advanced security controls, access to 600-plus device policies and the ability to manage updates.

Chrome Enterprise Upgrade is the key that allows an IT administrator or business owner to configure a ChromeOS device to the needs of the user or users of the device. This includes the ability to limit the device to one or two mission-critical applications or set up a shared device. With shared devices, a ChromeOS user can log in to a device with his or her own cloud profile, then log out and leave the device at a workstation to be picked up and used by a colleague without any digital trace of the previous user on the device. This is a particularly popular use case with retail and manufacturing businesses that rely on shift workers.

Reducing Total Cost of Ownership

When considering the costs of IT tools used by deskless workers, many leaders think of hardware first. But really, much of the total cost of device ownership comes from software efficiency and user productivity. Many organizations often see significant annual savings with ChromeOS, for instance, simply because they don’t need to buy additional anti-virus software and they’re able to increase worker productivity with things like faster boot times. Also, customers are often surprised to learn that administrators are able to manage both their Google Workspace users and their ChromeOS devices from the same Google Admin console.

On average, organizations save nearly $4,000 per managed ChromeOS device over three years of operation — a number that dwarfs the purchase price of even high-end hardware. For organizations looking to boost the productivity of their frontline workers without busting their budgets, it is critical to think through how a device will help solve each of these challenges.

For those businesses not ready to make the switch to ChromeOS by investing in a new device, ChromeOS Flex is a new version of ChromeOS that can be installed on PCs and Mac devices that businesses already own, at no cost. This gives small and midsized businesses the opportunity to extend the life cycle of their current device fleets, try out the operating system in their environment and provide significant savings back to the business without spending significant funds on new hardware.

Story by Matt Durgin, the Global Head of SMB Programs for ChromeOS Commercial.  He leads the team responsible for building programs designed to help all small and medium-sized businesses be successful with ChromeOS. Matt has a BA and a masters in business from UCLA.


Support your modern workforce with confidence with ChromeOS — the cloud-based operating system with built-in security at the heart of every ChromeOS device.

Matt Durgin

Global Head of SMB Programs for ChromeOS Commercial
Matt Durgin, the Global Head of SMB Programs for ChromeOS Commercial.  He leads the team responsible for building programs designed to help all small and medium-sized businesses be successful with ChromeOS. Matt has a BA and a masters in business from UCLA.