Could COVID-19 increase employment opportunities for disabled people?

Working from the spare room has become the “new office” for a lot of us in recent weeks. While this clearly has its downsides, it could really benefit those who find it difficult to travel outside the home or those who need the flexibility to handle frequent breaks from work, for example for medical appointments. The solutions we’ve needed for this pandemic are the same solutions, like remote working, that many disabled people have needed to make it possible for them to keep a job.

And it’s not just typical office workers. Teachers, GPs, politicians and even weather reporters have all quickly adapted to working in isolation. In just a few weeks, the traditional workplace has completely changed.

Clearly the primary intention has been to maintain staffing levels and retain the skills of people who are required to self-isolate, but this pandemic has taught us how technology can open up opportunities to recruit new talent from the disabled community. Removing workplace barriers by introducing remote working opportunities is undoubtedly going to increase resilience and open up a wider recruitment pool of skilled people.

 

As work environments have rapidly adapted to curb the spread of the virus, it has become clear that society is able to remove workplace barriers by introducing remote working which as a side effect increases accessibility. But that doesn’t automatically translate to a more accessible post-COVID-19 world. Now could be the perfect time to change practices and make them more accessible permanently.

Some of the big technology companies have already made this commitment; Twitter has told staff that they can work from home “forever” if they wish whilst Google and Facebook said their staff can work from home until the end of the year.

In just a few months, the coronavirus has made big cultural changes in the workplace that would have otherwise taken years. It has proven that it is possible to have it all: to be productive while giving employees the flexibility they need. If businesses decide to keep it that way. The result could be systems that are potentially better for everyone.

Hopefully, businesses and society can become rooted in accessibility and inclusion, well beyond this pandemic.