Government guidance on returning to the workplace is to change from 1 Aug. This could result in more people going back into work, a daunting prospect for some.
Capacity is set to increase on public transport to absorb the increase in passengers. Employers ought to be implementing austere sounding ‘covid-secure measures’ to make sure spaces are safe to work in. But which workplace adjustments could help those with a disability feel more confident and comfortable with a return to the office?
Here are some to consider:
- Window seat. You may have become accustomed to looking out window when working from home or during furlough. Having natural daylight and the opportunity for some short-lived people watching, has given the soul a frisson of joy in what has been some very testing times. So, an adjustment might be for your desk at work to be by a window.
- Avoid the rush hour. Lots of employers will be willing for you to alter your working hours to e.g.10-6 or 8-4, instead of 9-5. This change in hours could be important to you so you can drive on quieter roads, to increase your chances of getting a seat on the bus/tube/train/tram or because journeying on less crowded public transport contributes to you feeling less anxious.
- During Covid, you may have started to attend a regular medical appointment (virtual or physical). But, now you’re back at work so does this have to end? No. Being able to attend a regular medical appointment during working hours is a widely accepted workplace adjustment.
- Depending on your industry, it could be that your workplace is full of people wearing face masks. With that in mind, transparent face masks may be a big help for employees who rely on lip reading or are hard of hearing. In sectors like retail & hospitality, transparent face masks would benefit countless customers too.
- Similarly, there will be many companies intent on using video platforms instead of – or in addition to – Outlook etc. Making sure everyone’s microphones are off in meetings when one person is speaking limits background noise and is a consideration that managers & colleagues may need to be aware of. Cameras on rather than off also helps those who lip read.
- Flexible working. Many companies have flexitime and TOIL and Covid has made companies rethink workplace presenteeism. It might be that you end up working from home after Aug 1 or working some days in the office and some at home. So, it could be that you have adjustments at work which you will now need at home. Access to Work has recognised the need for remote assessments and employees shouldn’t be shy to ask for them. Also, the nature of you disability/ies may have changed since the start of lockdown meaning that the adjustments you had in place before may now need to be revisited.
Edmund Lewis, AGCAS Disability Task Group, University of Westminster