Not long ago, company intranets were little more than a repository for shared files, general announcements, and the all-important list of holiday office closures. Today, the humble intranet has evolved as a way to enhance internal communication and employee engagement, and to help workers do their jobs.

While organizations tend to have more content- and feature-rich intranets these days, many are missing one crucial element: a mobile-optimized version. As a result, they can exclude a large proportion of workers—including the 80% of people who make up today’s Deskless Workforce.

Top “deskless” industries include education, healthcare, retail, hospitality, and transportation, employing many of the frontline workers we all depend on.

One of our own clients, a large hospital system, told us that 70% of their workforce doesn’t sit at a desk, nor do they use a computer every day. And if 70% of their employees can’t easily access the company intranet, they’re not provided equitable access to the same resources as everyone else.

Why Mobile Matters Today

In addition to the challenges of communicating with deskless workers, the rise of remote work and the growing number of Millennials in the workforce are helping to drive an increased demand for mobile-optimized or employee-app versions of intranets.

Consider this: the average American spends more than 5 hours a day on their phone (and it’s almost always within reach). In addition, nearly half of smartphone users access the internet primarily on their phones versus a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet. Those numbers are even higher for Millennials, who currently make up 35% of the US workforce.

Mobile communication plays an essential role in our personal lives. To serve employees, company intranets must offer the same ease-of-use, convenience, and capability to our work lives. The intranet must go beyond the desktop box to where workers are.

The Benefits of an Inclusive Intranet

In addition to facilitating access, mobile technology offers a number of unique benefits that can significantly improve employee engagement and productivity and help reduce frustration.

Here are some of the key benefits of a mobile-optimized intranet:

Real-Time Push Notifications

Imagine there’s an emergency situation in your facility, or an important update that staff need to receive immediately. You can push the information straight to their phone, enabling real-time communication across your workforce. Unlike emails, most push notifications get read within the first 3 minutes after they’re received.

Broader Access for BYOD

As more and more organizations support remote work and flexible schedules—while fewer and fewer provide company smartphones—the “Bring Your Own Device” trend has become more prevalent. Many of today’s employees are using personal devices to access work-related resources and systems. And, as we noted earlier, most of the time that means they’re using a smartphone.

Freedom from Workstations

In some organizations, employees are still sharing desktop workstations that we might charitably describe as “clunky.” It’s inefficient and inconvenient, especially when multiple people have to go out of their way to get to a workspace. A mobile-optimized intranet gives everyone fast and easy access to the same resources, wherever they are.

Two-Way Communication

Intranets have traditionally been top-down communication platforms, focusing primarily on the needs of employers, not employees. Today, companies looking to increase engagement have shifted to a new mindset: communication tools are no longer for talking to employees, but talking with them.

Mobile-optimized platforms and mobile apps help facilitate two-way conversations, especially with features like built-in chatting or social forums where employees can like and comment on posts. This allows companies to have more personalized conversations with employees in addition to collecting valuable, on-the-spot feedback from the front lines.

Remote Doesn’t Feel So Remote

Without regular in-person interaction, remote workers often feel isolated and less engaged. By offering more of an app-like experience with ongoing communication, an intranet can help recreate an environment that fosters idea sharing and boosts morale. It also means that employees who work at home, or don’t have access to a computer, won’t feel uninformed and isolated from the rest of the team.

Better User Experience

If you’re looking to use your intranet as a tool for engagement, you’ll get the best results from an employee app. An app lets you take advantage of mobile-native tools, like location detection and offline access, which let you both customize content and make it more readily available. The improved user experience, speed, and features are the reasons why most people prefer apps to websites.

An Intranet for Everyone

Like many organizations, the purpose of your intranet might be to create a more engaged workforce or improve employee productivity. But if most of your workers either can’t or don’t access the content, you’re not going to achieve your goals.

As cultures, companies, and industries move towards creating more inclusiveness and equity, organizations across the world are looking for ways to meet the needs of their employees. One way to address your team’s needs and expectations is to start by ensuring your internal resources are truly benefiting everyone who relies on them.