The workplace has definitely had to adapt in recent months, thanks to the impact that the Coronavirus has had on a global scale.The majority of office-based businesses in the UK are now operating from kitchen worktops, dining room tables and even the sofa, in a bid to re-create a working environment in a place you usually love and call home.
The term ‘whatever it takes’ has never been so pertinent, with employers and employees doing whatever they need to do to keep customers happy and the business afloat.For some of us, this new ‘work from home’ reality is a dream come true. It’s something we’ve been hoping, praying and petitioning for, for years, with little promise of it becoming ‘the norm’.
Something that has been so high up on the agenda for years is now considered to be ‘the new normal’.But the workplace hasn’t always been a suitable place for some members of society, especially those with a physical or mental health condition.In fact, the workplace has become a huge barrier for a lot of people who have huge potential to succeed.
Many people with physical and/or mental health problems choose the path of self-employment because they’re able to choose how and where they work. They’re in control of their working environment, they can play to their strengths and limit how much exposure they have to situations that are going to have a negative impact on their health and how they work. But it shouldn’t have to be this way. Employers should be able to adapt to the working environment to be more inclusive, offering an alternative solution to those with physical and/or mental health needs.
Statistics show that there are 700,000 people in the UK on the Autistic spectrum. Only 16% of those on the spectrum are in full-time employment. Only 32% are in some kind of paid work and 1 in 3 autistic adults experience mental health difficulties due to lack of support.
To me, this shows that there’s a massive gap in the talent pool that could easily be remedied with the right infrastructure and support in place.
An office environment can often create additional problems for those on the autistic spectrum. It can be too noisy, chaotic and disorganised. It can be over-stimulating to the brain when there are too many sights, sounds and movements to filter, and then there are the social expectations of working with colleagues.
When you already feel as though you don’t fit in, these factors can easily increase anxiety and lead to depression. The number of disabled people in employment has increased by over 1.3 million people since 2013, but a lot still needs to be done to really embrace inclusivity in the workplace.
People with physical disabilities aren’t always able to work in an actual office, due to the location of the office itself. And then the set-up of the office can also be more of a hindrance than a help. Not all offices are designed with wheelchairs in mind. Not all offices have access to a lift, or ramps to aid those with mobility issues. These are all very real issues that affect a high percentage of the UK population. So again, there’s a massive gap in the talent pool when it comes to providing jobs in a safe working environment.
As we’ve learnt since being in lockdown, the long-held belief that we need to be physically present in the office is a thing of the past. We no longer need to commute to a place of work to be able to carry out our job roles to the high standards that are expected of us. We no longer need to be sat at a desk from 9–5pm in order to be productive, or to be motivated to give 100% every single day.
Employees across the globe have proved that objectives can still be met and work can still be delivered remotely. Some people would argue that they’re more productive working from home as they have less distractions. The phone isn’t ringing all the time, colleagues aren’t asking questions and less tea breaks are being taken!
The one thing we’ve all embraced since being in lockdown, is technology. Zoom, House Party and Google Hangout (to name a few) have acted as the glue that holds us all together. However, the one thing they can’t do is capture and re-create the office environment. To speak to team members, you still need to arrange a time for the call, you all need access to the login details and password and you all need decent WiFi to stop screen freeze!
These are all factors that we took into consideration when we developed Wurkr — the work from home anywhere platform that literally enables you to work from anywhere, whether that’s from home, from a shared office space, or even a café, and allows you to be present and feel connected to your colleagues throughout the day.
Wurkr not only keeps teams together, but it also offers another layer of inclusivity to the workplace, opening up opportunities to those who simply don’t work as well in an office environment.
Someone with a physical disability or mental health condition can now work in harmony alongside their colleagues, without the distractions of the very factors that stop them from working in a physical office. Removing the barriers that affect the employability of those with a physical or mental disability opens up a whole new world of opportunity, not only to the employees but the employers themselves. Which is huge and a massive step forward in boosting the economy, employing exceptional talent and breaking silo’s that simply aren’t serving anyone.
So, while there are many benefits to working from home, you could argue that the hidden benefits have way more of an impact on the recruitment of those who are often not suited to working in an actual office environment.
Rosenblatt, M (2008). I Exist: the message from adults with autism in England. London: The National Autistic Society, p3
The National Autistic Society (2016). The autism employment gap: Too Much Information in the workplace. p5
Bancroft et al (2012). The Way We Are: Autism in 2012. London: The National Autistic Society