Don't let productivity hurdles set back workers with special needs
In the work-from-home revolution, more employers are introducing office tools and productivity software that cater to a wider range of users – in particular, employees with disabilities.
A new survey from HR tech group UKG showed 51% of managers are seeing significant change in the way their organizations respond to the needs of a diverse workforce: by supporting employees with specific accommodation requests with better applications and programs.
In the COVID-19 pandemic, what would have otherwise been seen as productivity hurdles – such as communicating in an online meeting – in reality, accelerated companies’ ability to look after all employees, especially those with special needs, the UKG report on disability inclusion and digital accessibility said.
Read more: How to engage people with disabilities across your organization
What is digital accessibility – and why is it critical to your business?
Digital accessibility refers to the features and specifications that make office tools, whether software or hardware, easy to navigate and operate for differently abled employees. These include workers with a visual, auditory, motor or cognitive handicap.
The purpose of developing accessible tech is to provide everyone with access to the same information regardless of the impairments they may have, the UKG report said.
While much of the world has already embraced flexible work hours (58%) as part of their ‘new normal,’ other employers are also going the extra mile to build a more inclusive remote work environment:
- 43% offer training programs specifically designed for employees with disabilities
- 41% have a dedicated resource in IT to assist employees with disabilities
- 33% hire interpreting-service providers to fulfill remote meeting requests as needed
- 28% include provisions in partner/vendor agreements requiring office apps be accessible
Employers are placing disability inclusion at the forefront of workforce management. For example:
- 77% of managers have been trained on potential accommodations for direct reports
- 73% consult employees with disabilities in the procurement of new digital work tools
- 65% say their company has an employee resource group (ERG) for team members with disabilities
“COVID-19 has completely upended how many businesses operate, leaving leaders scrambling to adjust to ‘new and different modes of work’ – and keep their employees happy and thriving through it all,” said Cecile Alper-Leroux, vice president of products and innovation at UKG.
“It’s heartening to see that, even in the midst of such widespread upheaval, disability inclusion and digital accessibility have not fallen by the wayside. In fact, many organizations are doubling down on ensuring workplaces are adaptive and supportive environments for all people,” she said.
Read more: Top five ways to create a disability-friendly workplace
UKG is a champion of disability inclusion and digital accessibility, garnering a perfect score on the Disability Equality Index of the nonprofit advocacy group Disability: IN.
The HR tech company has introduced product enhancements, website updates, improvements to its recruiting platform and practices, and changes to its internal learning materials, course curricula and trainings to support a diverse range of employees.
“Empowering employees with disabilities has always been a big priority for our own organization, and we’re glad to see other companies taking action to better support their team members with disabilities,” Alper-Leroux said.
From ‘obstacle’ to ‘opportunity’
Disability: IN agrees that the pandemic has disrupted business, but that it has also been a pivotal moment for employers.
“It’s inspiring to see companies use this obstacle as an opportunity to go back to the basics – building a culture of inclusion, re-examining technology and accessibility, and advancing disability inclusion initiatives,” said Jill Houghton, president and CEO of Disability: IN.
“Although this may seem like a ‘pause’ in the way we work, we will soon see which companies have taken action now, positioning themselves for a more resilient, sustainable and innovative future ahead,” Houghton said.