As a disabled person, I’ve found that the pandemic has done a lot to hinder daily living. There’s no part of life covid hasn’t influenced. Everything from medical care, socialising, and even work has been affected. Of course, you can say the same of everyone, but in my experience, people rarely stop to think about the impact on those of us with disabilities.
I recently read a report, ‘Disabled workers’ experience during the pandemic’. It concluded that disabled people often face a “negative workplace culture”. During the report’s breakdown, TUC also stated that “many disabled people report that they experienced significant barriers in the workplace before the pandemic and that Covid-19 has made things worse for them.”
Barriers and discriminatory attitudes might go some way to explaining the disability employment gap. As of May 2021, only 52% of disabled people are employed in the UK. (Gov.co.uk). Did you know from July to November 2020, over 20% of people made redundant were disabled workers? (Statistics supplied by ONS).
It’s a bleak picture, to be sure. However, what if the very problem causing so many issues also yielded a solution? Arguably one of the few positives to come out of the pandemic is the practice of remote working.
Now, remote working isn’t something new. However, people are now practising it in mass, and I think it may be part of the answer to the disability employment gap. Below I’ve compiled a list of the benefits of remote and hybrid working for disabled workers and their employers.
Benefits of remote working for employers and disabled workers
- Flexibility – Remote and hybrid working are far more flexible and more sustainable. It means that we can fit other vital things around work easier. For example, we can take longer breaks or schedule time for a doctor’s appointment. Remote working lets us put our needs first in a more realistic way and helps break down barriers.
- Creative workers – Disabled people are creative problem solvers. We always need to adapt to our surroundings and situation. Imagine that level of problem-solving ability entering the workforce? Honestly, disabled employees will likely flag problems you didn’t realise were an issue. This can include everything from hot-desking not suiting everyone to your marketing messaging not appealing to its target audience.
- Lower employee turnover – Offering remote opportunities is an affirmative action, which means fewer barriers for disabled people and more opportunities to succeed. A company working like this is more likely to appeal to disabled job seekers. Disabled workers are more likely to stay under your employee as we value security and career progression.
Did you know?
Autism at Work reports a 90% retention rate of hires they’ve helped, because of offered support networks.
- Higher productivity and better accountability – Remote working means your workers have to be accountable for themselves, rather than having management checking in constantly. A workers’ mood, level of productiveness and sense of worth are interconnected. Show that you trust your employees by allowing remote and hybrid work to continue.
- More job opportunities – I’ve noticed an increase in remote working opportunities. This is great for disabled people that need work but can’t make it to an office every day. It also goes a long way to decreasing the disability employment gap, which is currently just over 50%.
- No physical workplace barriers – All businesses must make reasonable adjustments for their disabled staff. However, working from home removes even more obstacles. We don’t have to worry about mobility around the office. We don’t need to struggle with pain management because we feel self-conscious. Working from home can also decrease overstimulation. There’s also a shortened commute for everyone, meaning more time spent with friends and family or at home.
Working from home needs to continue because it’s beneficial to everyone. As it becomes the norm, I believe that it’ll play a significant role in shrinking the disability employment gap. It’s more flexible and less stressful and removes barriers for the disabled workforce.
Is it the perfect solution? No, everything has its drawbacks. People argue it increases social isolation and difficulty separating work and home life. Remote working may not be for everyone. We’re all different, but the benefit of remote working for the disabled community is enormous, and I’m excited to see where it leads.
Bua was founded to increase disabled and neurodiverse employment and inclusion. Bua offers disability and neurodiversity workshops for organisations seeking to change their culture. Get in touch to book yours.
About the Author
Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disability, so her story and others like it could be told with passion and conviction.