Help Employees with Disabilities Transition Back to the Office

By Adrian Johansen

Many businesses allowed employees work from home due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As COVID-19 vaccines have become generally available, companies are increasingly asking their remote employees to return to business as usual. Yet, for employees with disabilities, the transition away from remote work can be exceedingly difficult for several reasons.

First, disabled workers must acknowledge the personal risks in adapting to working in a post-COVID world. Employers must also be cognizant of the possible dangers as they establish their COVID workplace safety protocols and be open to alternatives to maintain the safest possible workplace.

Employees with disabilities must consider the costs and time required to travel to their employer's work environment. It can be expensive for workers with disabilities to drive or take public transportation to a workplace. Furthermore, these employees may spend several hours each week traveling for work.

The obstacles that prevent businesses from getting employees with disabilities to transition away from remote work can be overwhelming. With the right approach, a business can support its employees with disabilities as they embrace the "new normal" of working offsite once again.

Back to the Office: woman working in home office

Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels

4 Tips to Help Employees with Disabilities Transition Away from Remote Work

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to get employees with disabilities to transition away from remote work. However, there are several things that a business can do to support these employees and help them during the transition period, such as:

1. Plan for the Transition

Make a plan to have employees with disabilities transition away from remote work. Business leaders should meet with these employees and work with them to develop the plan. That way, relevant stakeholders are involved in the plan's creation and execution.

Be ready to respond to concerns and questions surrounding policies to have employees with disabilities shift away from remote work. Give these workers many opportunities to reach out and receive support during this period.

It can be beneficial to implement a hybrid work model as part of a transition away from remote work, too. Using this model allows employees with disabilities to spend some time working remotely and some time working at a business location. A business can utilize this model temporarily. Or, it can make it a permanent option to accommodate the needs of its employees with disabilities.

2. Offer Incentives

Learn about employees with disabilities and what would motivate them to return to the office. From here, a business can develop incentives that drive these workers back to the workplace.

For instance, a company can offer flexible work hours to employees with disabilities. This ensures that single moms with disabilities and others can work a schedule that allows them to feel and perform their best at work and outside of it.

Businesses that provide incentives to drive remote employees to return to a workplace should monitor the results of their efforts. In doing so, they can ensure that these incentives consistently hit the mark with their teams.

3. Invest in Employees with Disabilities

Verify employees with disabilities feel supported, regardless of where they work. To do so, learn how to help them accomplish their career aspirations and what will inspire them to work at peak levels. This can lead to increased employee satisfaction. It can even reach a point where workers with disabilities want to return to a workplace and connect with their peers and superiors every day.

Businesses can focus on creating opportunities for employees with disabilities as well. They can show employees with disabilities that they want to do everything in their power to support them. That way, companies can help employees with disabilities thrive when they work remotely and in a business setting. 

4. Remain Persistent

Do not require employees with disabilities to transition from remote work right away. Rather, give these workers sufficient time to prepare for the transition and support them in any way possible. Failure to do so can inadvertently drive these workers away from a business. It can also damage a business's brand reputation and its ability to recruit top talent going forward.

Finally, if employees with disabilities can perform their work remotely, allow them to do so. Working remotely is a viable option for professionals in accounting and many other roles. Meanwhile, research indicates some employees are more productive working from home than they would be if they worked in a traditional workplace. Thus, if employees with disabilities feel comfortable working remotely, it can be beneficial to make a permanent option for them.

Adapting to the New Normal

Remote work became normal during the pandemic. As the pandemic (hopefully) approaches its conclusion, companies may want employees to return to their prior work environment but they need to be flexible realize that many viable work options are available.

Back to the Office: woman working at office

Businesses can provide employees with disabilities with opportunities to transition away from remote work. At the same time, they can recognize the advantage of allowing employees continue to work remotely. Offering the best of both worlds may prove to be a great option for companies.

The bottom line: companies should help employees with disabilities in any way possible—whether with opportunities to work remotely or in-house—so that both workers and business can thrive from any location, at any time.

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