The Return To Work Is Not The Same For Everyone

The Return To Work Is Not The Same For Everyone

In Uncategorized by Roger Lewis

Full article with thanks to:

So despite some rising Covid case wobbles, there is a renewed determination for businesses to return to work as we inch towards an endemic pandemic. Many reports are unhelpfully setting this up as a battle between managers and workers, with overbearing managers demanding returns and employees resisting the commute. Whilst we are seeing some notable examples of poor practice here, the underlying story is more nuanced. Firstly, many managers are also resistant, and many employees are desperate to get back to the office!

Remote Working Is Disability Inclusive

From the first lockdown, the pandemic provided a levelling of the playing field for disabled workers. We’ve frequently asked for remote working options because travel is disproportionately difficult for us because at home we have access to the environmental augmentations that we need. At the News UK disabled journalism event on the 23rd of March, many contributors described taking two hours to get ready to leave the house before they could travel. For those with sensory sensitivities, the lack of background noise, bright lights and desk hopping meant we could concentrate on our work and deliver our best work. This was exciting and has helped employers understand that remote working is a valid reasonable accommodation/adjustment.

Remote Work-Life Balance Is Problematic

That said, as time went on, many employees have struggled with work-life balance during the extended remote working period. These have been disproportionately women and those with fewer resources at home, both of which, of course, intersect with disability. Interestingly, ADHDers found the lack of structure disorientating and so our typical difficulties with time management and prioritisation became disabling. Anxiety and self-consciousness over reading body language and tone were exacerbated by the lack of in-person conversation and informal knowledge transfer. Asking for help was more nerve-wracking, which fell hard upon younger or less experienced staff.

Three Considerations

So moving forward, we need to remember three key principles for our new normal of hybrid working.

Firstly, one rule cannot apply to all. Disabled and neurodivergent people still require flexibility and might need a different rule. Just because the majority of the team can stick to a new “three days in, two days at home” type rule, doesn’t mean everyone can. Disabilities affect energy levels, we may find that some weeks three days is fine, and on others, we need more home days in order to deliver our best work. Have guidelines rather than diktats and empower your supervisors to work to the strengths and patterns of their team rather than feeling obliged to enforce a blunt policy with no nuance. This is the accommodation we’ve always been seeking, and the last few years may have shown clearly which employees benefited from remote or flexible hours.

Secondly, remember the importance of socialisation. Many companies developed deep bonds across teams where remote workers were able to join in social events online, they made deliberate attempts to create camaraderie and informal spaces for connection. We don’t want to return to the state where remote workers are placed at risk of isolation and increased anxiety, we need to keep the benefits and learning of the last few years for all our staff, not just the ones who can easily go for coffee or a drink after work.

Lastly, all change is more anxiety-inducing for neurodivergent staff. A typical trigger point for performance issues is a change in supervisor, software or workstation. We often have issues learning a new system and rely heavily on our long term memories, our spatial memories. It can take us longer to adapt to new ways of working, even if those are a return to what we had before. So you might need to put extra scaffolding in place to support productivity for those with neuro differences, we might need a one-to-one to explore our concerns or need for adjustments. Patience is required during any organisational change for those of us who can’t pivot quickly to a new system because they drain our cognitive or energy resources more severely than our colleagues.

The Opportunity

In the long run, the monumental shift in working practices that we’ve experienced will lead to great flexibility in the world of employment. We’ve learned that we can manage by output, not input – there is a greater understanding that what people actually produce is more important than how, when or where the activity took place. This is immensely liberating for managers and employees alike, we’re on the same team and fighting battles over presenteeism will not serve us long term. For the world’s 1.3 billion disabled people the opportunity to prove our worth with flexible and remote work is reverberating across the radar of many strategic human resources teams. We’re all hoping that these lessons stay fresh in the minds of forward-thinking enterprises. Given the shortage of skills across many industries, flexible working has firmly instituted itself as a core driver of talent attraction.

Full article with thanks to:

Did you enjoy that? Why not share this article.

We specialise in supporting change across the insurance sector, helping insurance businesses (and other businesses like distribution and logistics) adapt seamlessly.

Our services include Change & TransformationM&A IntegrationBusiness Process Management and Executive Coaching. We help make organisational change and technology change much easier.

Got a question about our services? Get in touch and leave a message.