The pandemic has taken a toll on traditional workplace structures, transforming the way we see and perform our jobs and forcing us to rethink how essential tasks can be done.
However, it remains unclear what the implications of home-based or remote work will have for our future work, a question that is especially important for workers with physical and/or mental impediments.
An article from the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation has looked into the many benefits this approach has for individuals with disabilities but also the limitations of it.
Challenges and opportunities for people with disabilities
One should not be fooled to think that a remote work model does not have any downsides.
Isolation, blurriness between work and home, fewer training and promotion opportunities due to less visibility and many more challenges are faced by workers all over the world, but particularly marginalised groups including people of color, women, the LGBTQ community as well as people with disabilities.
Further, we know that not every occupation is suited to be performed from home. This may result in a limitation to this approach when used as a tool for facilitating the work life of people with impairments due the greater likelihood of holding blue-collar and service jobs and therefore reducing the potential to expand a remote working model into their current job.
However, there is no doubt that the possibility to work from home is of special relevance for individuals with physical and/or mental imparities that make it harder to perform their job in a traditional work environment.
Also in terms of mobility, not needing to commute is a well known benefit for workers worldwide, specifically for those with impairments that make traveling to and from work especially difficult.
Opportunities for employers
COVID-19 has forced employers worldwide to recognize the value of a home based or even remote workforce and opening their eyes to how this approach can be used as a tool to tackle fundamental issues within the workplace such as the lack of diversity and inclusion as well as the shortage of talent.
Diversity and inclusion
As we have already mentioned in one of our previous blog posts on diversity and inclusion, companies with an improved diversity agenda have proven to be more likely to outperform less diverse competitors in profitability.
According to a study conducted by Accenture, Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities, organizations that focus on disability inclusion were more successful, enjoying 28% higher revenue and 30% higher profit margins than employers with a less inclusive workforce.
As it is always the case when working in diverse teams, the different perspectives and point of views are of immense value to employers and should be regarded as an important competitive advantage.
For instance, people with disabilities are part of a large, not much explored consumer market. Having someone that personally faces day to day challenges due to their impediment on the table when it comes to product development can help explore this market further and contribute to the innovation of existing products and processes as well as strengthening the organizational culture and high performance teams.
Shortage of talent
The lack of talent is one of the most fundamental issues organizations have been facing.
Before working remotely, many talent pools were not accessible mainly due to mobility barriers, it being geographically-related but also due to disability.
Now, being able to work from home opens many doors for both employers and employees. Enabling people with disabilities to work from home gives them the opportunity to create a work environment in which they feel most comfortable and therefore boost their productivity, eliminating the impediment of a physical office as a whole.
Further, the increasing importance of social justice and moral responsibility is becoming of great relevance when attracting the best talent as a whole, as culture change expert and career leadership coach Suzy Sallam pointed, recommending companies to look at working and improving their inclusivity agenda since it has become a major reference point for potential employees.
What companies need to keep in mind for the post-pandemic future
Normalising to work remotely and remain flexible opens many doors to better access a new labour market full of opportunities, especially when trying to approach a pool of potential employees that was not available due to mobility barriers, including the disability community.
This can be done during strategic conversations and the implementation of a remote working policy to facilitate and enable their participation in the workforce.
The implementation of such a framework in a remote working policy is also essential to avoid and eliminate blind spots and bias in the sourcing and hiring process which often get in the way when building a more diverse organisation.