Over the last year, the transition to working from home has given people usually excluded from work or flexibility in how they work, new opportunities and more autonomy. I was a big fan of remote working before the lockdown. However, I continually found that my opportunity to work flexibly depended on who I’d be working with and their attitude towards remote working.
As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, there’s a lot of talk about the five-day office week becoming the ‘norm’ again, which is leaving disabled people worried about losing the flexibility they’ve had to work remotely. But ‘going back to the norm’ for disabled people typically entails exclusion from daily life, including work. I mean, it took a global pandemic for disabled people to get the flexibility, adjustments and opportunities that so many people had been asking for, for many years. Nonetheless, the lockdown has shown that significant changes can be implemented quickly and with little controversy when it benefited the majority.
Disabled people are hardly a minority, but many requests for support, adjustments and flexibility are met with pushback. 20% of the working population are disabled; 8 out of 10 disabled people acquired their disability during their working life. So the chances are that disability is something that you will come across in your business or experience yourself.
The disability employment gap has been stuck at over 30% for more than a decade. And yet, even a 10-percentage point rise in disabled people’s employment rate would contribute an additional £12 billion to the Treasury by 2030.
Research carried out by the EHRC found that just over three-quarters of employers list workforce diversity as a priority for their organisation. This should be raising alarm bells for businesses wanting to retain their talent because as the world opens up, more employees are evaluating their next move. Research by Microsoft, The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready? has found that:
- 73% of workers surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue.
- Remote job postings on LinkedIn increased more than five times during the pandemic.
- Over 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year and 46% are planning to make a career transition now they can work remotely.
I think it’s inconceivable that we’ll go back to working the way we were, but the business landscape has a very divided opinion on it. While some influential companies were early to adopt the hybrid approach, others are insisting that it is not the new normal.
- The Business Disability Forum have guidance on welcoming disabled colleagues back to the office in their COVID-19 Toolkit.
- Microlink is widely renowned for their made to measure workplace adjustment service. No matter what size of organisation you represent, don’t hesitate to get in touchwith the experts if you have any questions about workplace adjustments or any related services they offer.
Shani Dhanda is an award-winning disability specialist, listed as one of the UK’s most influential disabled people.
As a keynote speaker and practitioner for inclusion across business, government, non-profit and wider society, Shani helps organisations break barriers and integrate inclusion into their business frameworks.
Shani’s style and approach are described as ‘a winning combination of authenticity and passion, helping to remove the awkwardness and fear of having confident conversations about disability within business and society.’