Big Tech’s Obsession with AI Leaves Deskless Workers Abandoned

Delve into the article to discover how in the competition for AI dominance, tech giants are neglecting human factors.


In recent years, AI has dominated the big tech industry’s narrative, promising to revolutionize everything from healthcare to logistics. As a founder and CEO of Blink, I’m naturally in favor of innovation and the transformative potential of technology. However, Meta’s recent decision to shut down Workplace in favor of an intensified focus on AI has spotlighted a growing concern: the sidelining of deskless workers.

Deskless workers are often frontline workers – those in retail, healthcare, manufacturing and logistics (to name a few) – essentially the backbone of our economy. These employees are essential, and their roles are irreplaceable. Yet, the current tech trend increasingly neglects their needs and overlooks their contributions. Meta’s decision exemplifies this shift, raising critical questions about where big tech’s priorities truly lie.

The allure of AI is undeniable. It has the potential to automate processes, analyze vast data sets and even create new products and services. Companies are racing to develop sophisticated algorithms and machine learning models that promote efficiency and innovation. This AI gold rush is reminiscent of the early days of the internet – full of promise and potential.

However, as tech giants race to dominate the AI landscape, the human element is increasingly being overshadowed. The closure of Workplace, a platform specifically designed to enhance communication and collaboration among employees, especially frontline workers, sends a clear and troubling message: AI is the future and everything else is secondary.

Over 7 million employees currently use Workplace, with a huge proportion of these being deskless across companies such as Walmart, Heineken, Starbucks and Nestle. Frontline workers have unique challenges and needs that differ significantly from those of their desk-bound counterparts. They require intuitive, accessible tools that enhance their productivity and connect them with the broader organization. Platforms like Workplace played a crucial role in bridging the communication gap, fostering a sense of belonging, and enhancing operational efficiency.

By naming one migration partner Workvivo, a platform which is essentially an intranet designed for desk workers, companies risk isolating their deskless workers. Frontline workers need targeted, immediate solutions that address their specific needs.
It’s not a surprise that there’s been a surge of activity among HR leaders seeking replacements for Workplace across the marketplace over the last week. This activity demonstrates the critical role that employee engagement platforms play in enterprise operations.

Innovation and frontline engagement are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they should be complementary. It is possible to create a tech ecosystem where AI advancements coexist with robust support for all workers, wherever they are.

Companies must truly consider their entire workforce when implementing a replacement for Workplace. We must ensure that the tools and technologies they rely on are designed for every worker, especially those on the frontline, reflecting their indispensable role in our society.

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Sean Nolan, CEO and founder of Blink

Sean Nolan is CEO and co-founder of Blink, a super-app that connects management with frontline workers to everything they need in one place.