For the past half-century, national laws and innovative architectural design features have ensured that professionals of all physical ability levels are equipped to equally participate in workplace environments. But now that hybrid is the new normal, it means that at least half of workers’ time is spent outside of those carefully controlled environments. This leaves advocates to wonder: Are the needs of disabled professionals considered and cared for as much in a virtual work environment as they were in the office?
An estimated 1 in 5 people globally have a diagnosed disability. One of the many benefits of remote work is greater location and schedule flexibility to accommodate those with disabilities, including mobility challenges, sensory impairments, and the neurodiverse. This builds higher employment rates and supports a more inclusive and diverse workforce. We’ve even seen this in action recently — mass adoption of remote work since the pandemic has expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities. However, as many companies return to the office with a new hybrid workplace model, it’s important to consider how these decisions affect team members with disabilities.
Are the needs of disabled professionals considered and cared for as much in a virtual or hybrid work … [+]
It’s possible that current remote work policy decisions may not be supporting inclusivity and equal employee experience for all staff members. To prevent that risk, evaluate these four categories to prevent ableism in your distributed team:
Temperature Check: Does your remote work policy allow an employee with disabilities to qualify for higher workplace flexibility or an on-site mandate exemption?
For people with disabilities, tasks like daily grooming and commuting can add strain and complexity to the day, contributing to increased personal stress and safety risks. If your hybrid model requires all team members to work from a shared office space one or more days per week, consider allowing a fully-remote reasonable accommodation for any team members with disabilities. It’s important to not assume that team members with disabilities don’t want to come to the office, so communicating that you’ll support this option if they’d like to exercise it, may be the most supportive offer, so you don’t unintentionally exclude people with disabilities.
Additionally, remember that if you have only one team member working remotely full time, you are still a remote team. If this is the case, ensure that you’ve updated your rituals and cultural touchpoints to be remote-first, fully supported on virtual channels, enabling equal participation regardless where people work.
Temperature Check: Have all of the tools in your software infrastructure been audited for digital accessibility, and has all staff been trained on virtual inclusion guidelines?
The tools you use are only as good as your team’s ability to utilize them to make their jobs easier. When it comes to creating equal access for team members with disabilities, it’s important to audit your software stack for things like closed captioning, recording capability, text-to-speech translation, and searchability. Once you’ve confirmed you have tools with the proper capabilities, train your team on how to use them and document the requirements in your flexibility policy and communication charter to help enforce proper usage.
Your digital infrastructure creates the foundation for location-independent collaboration and asynchronous …….