10 ways desk-less employees can access the intranet

Make it easy for them to get the information they need through mobile, digital signs, screensavers and more.

One of the positive innovations in this year’s Digital Workplace Survey is the inclusion of company demographic questions designed to allow some detailed research of how different organizations use digital communication and collaboration tools.

Like many companies, not all of my employees are desk-based knowledge workers. Many of them don’t have company laptops or mobile phones, and as such have irregular access to the information and services on the intranet.

Given that your internal communication team, HR team and other departments rely on employees having consistent and regular access to the intranet, it’s time to think beyond the laptop and explore new ways to reach desk-less workers with your content.

You must find ways to bring the intranet to them—to fit it into their day-to-day routines—rather than expect them to get to an office to read your news.

1. Mobile

Developing and implementing a mobile intranet strategy is vital to extend your intranet’s reach. Make the mobile intranet accessible from personal mobiles as well as company supplied equipment, as many of the employees without laptops will also be without cell phones.

Mobile is a great way to engage your employee base with social tools since many people will already be familiar with them in their personal life. When considering social intranet features, look for a supplier that provides a mobile interface.

2. Home access

Providing your employees with home access to the intranet will undoubtedly extend the reach of your content and functionality.

Employees may be at home but not necessarily working from home, so job-related information may not be useful. Consider designing a specific “access from home” page that provides direct access to key topics such as pay slips, important news alerts or vacation booking. If employees access the intranet from home on their own time, you must make sure that your intranet is quick and focused.

Be sure to speak to work councils and unions about this feature. You may think that you’re being helpful by providing home access, but others may interpret it as a way of extending work hours.

3. Digital signage

Digital signage networks are an ideal way to extend the reach of intranet communications. When correctly positioned in staff canteens or on production lines, they’re a great way to get key intranet messaging to employees who do not have traditional intranet access. Some important points are:

  • Apply the same headline style to both your intranet and your digital signage. It’s important to give a consistent user experience.
  • Rewrite intranet content into 50 word pieces. Review your content to ensure employees can read it quickly and from a distance.
  • Integrate RSS to allow a one-click publishing process across your intranet and digital signage.
  • Consider showing your intranet social activity feeds. This provides instantly dynamic content (which is vital for signage), and is a great way to introduce employees to each other.
  • Don’t display the intranet page on your digital signage. It will be unreadable.

4. Email digests

Email digests are a great way to summarize recent intranet communication for both your desk-less and desk-based employees. Don’t forget that the barriers that stop many employees from accessing the intranet—hardware, time, training, desire—will also stop them from accessing their email, so you should not rely on this method alone.

Consider surfacing blog and other social information in your digests, too. Don’t limit yourself to top-down communication.

5. Kiosks/shared PCs

Take the intranet to where employees work by placing kiosks in cafeterias, on production lines or in staff debrief rooms. This way, your employees can access the key content and functionality without straying too far from their stations. Your business must provide the time for this to happen, however, and it must be culturally acceptable to connect in this way.

6. Access via terminals

At the recent EPEM event in Berlin, Kjartan Michaelen shared an inspired method of extending the reach of an intranet: providing access through a point-of-sale touchscreen terminal. When employees at Peppes Pizza had down time, they could directly access the intranet through the cash register at the restaurant. Employees were available and not far from their work stations, yet they also had convenient intranet access.

7. Short message service (SMS)

The power of SMS is in the speed of delivery, the speed of communication consumption, and the widespread availability of the facility. The downside is that you need some smart internal communicators to translate key messaging into 160 characters while maintaining sense and the appropriate calls to action. When done well, SMS can be a useful way of extending intranet content.

Also consider using SMS as an alert to intranet material, particularly social content such as new posts or replies to threads of interest.

8. Printable summaries for notice boards with QR codes

Paper is still king in many work environments. As much as we’d like to believe that the digital workspace is alive and kicking, certain business functions such as production or distribution use the notice board and verbal updates from managers as primary methods of communication. Provide good print facilities on your intranet by correctly formatting printouts and removing unnecessary visual clutter.

Consider adding QR codes to all printable intranet summaries. Smartphone apps like QR Reader provide an easy link back to the digital copy. QR codes help embed the notion that your intranet is the primary source of information, but they also provide employees with the opportunity to read more on the same subject.

You can create your own QR codes for free using websites like Kaywa.

9. Text-to-voice technology

You may already provide some voice services on your intranet, but text-to-voice technology can broaden the reach of your intranet material for all employees. If it’s commonplace in your company for employees not to have consistent access to the intranet, you could push key stories to voicemail for wider distribution.

10. Screensavers

I recently asked my Twitter followers how they felt about using screensavers to push intranet content, and they had polarized opinions. Love it or hate it, many companies employ an RSS-based screensaver to display intranet headlines during PC idle time.

I know there are many debates on the value of this technology. If the screensaver comes on, the employee is away from their PC so they’re arguably not there to read the content. Equally, others may see the screen, and our primary employee may read it when he returns to his desk.

Maybe we should use screensavers to encourage employees to switch off their monitors when they’re away from their desks to preserve the monitor’s life and save energy. See how that debate pans out in your organization.

Screensavers are a great way of surfacing your intranet social activity feeds. Push these rather than the news stories-they’re more engaging and interesting.

Jonathan Phillips is co-founder of intranetizen.com, where this article originally ran. He is a regular international conference speaker on intranets, drawing on his 12 years of experience in blue-chip FMCG organizations. Follow him on Twitter @digitaljonathan.


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