The COVID-19 pandemic has created a temporary work-from-home situation, mirroring what represents a more permanent need for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses who work.
For years, people with disabilities have advocated for flexibility in the workspace, including the opportunity to work from home. This is one of many accommodations that benefits both the employer and the employee and costs little to implement. The flux of employees working from home over the past couple months due to the COVID-19 virus has allowed employers to see sustained and even increased productivity. What does this mean for moving forward in the office once life returns to normal?
We’ve created a list of ways to implement new work-from-home routines into employees’ schedules. This list is great for workers with and without disabilities.
- A Flexible Nine to Five Schedule
People with chronic illness may experience episodes of pain throughout the day that keep them from being productive. Or, some people with disabilities need time in the morning to fully wake up their body due to neurological conditions or other side effects. People with illnesses resulting in muscle fatigue may need to take a longer afternoon break or work more in the morning or evening. A flexible “nine to five” work schedule accommodates these needs.
It’s perfectly okay to still require a certain amount of hours to be spent on work during the day, but consider allowing employees to break it up according to their needs. This carries over for people without disabilities too. Everyone has a different internal clock and different family needs. Implementing a flexible schedule works for everyone.
People with disabilities don’t want to skip out on our work. We simply want accommodating options that allow us to thrive in our jobs, helping our employers and companies succeed as well.
- Medical Care
For some employees with chronic illnesses or disabilities, we have extra medical needs during the work week. For example, employees with diabetes may need to take breaks throughout the day to measure blood sugar or take insulin. A mother of a child with a disability may require extra time for doctors’ appointments for their child. An employee with cancer may need to break more often to take medication.
Continuing proper medical care is vital to our overall health, including our ability to be productive at work. Making allowances for these needs is important. It’s another reason to consider flexible scheduling that meets the needs of individuals with and without disabilities.
- Adaptive Equipment
One of the most common accommodation requests stems from not having accessible, adaptive work equipment. For example, an employee who uses a wheelchair may need a desk that lowers and raises according to their chair height. Someone who has a vision impairment may require a certain kind of keyboard.
Many employees with disabilities already have the equipment they need at home. An employer or business owner can save money by allowing their employees to either bring their adaptive equipment from home or even better yet, work from home.
If any positives have come out of this pandemic, it’s seeing the value and flexibility that working from home offers. It’s time we start meeting our employees’ needs in a way that works for everyone. It’s just one of many ways we can show we’re in this together with people with disabilities.