I have a disability you probably wouldn’t notice unless we were having a conversation face to face. I have significant hearing loss. When I was tested in my early 20’s the audiologist responded, “You’ve got the hearing of a late 40’s to 50’s adult! Too much rock music eh?” Nope, no loud rock music. It’s just hereditary. I’ll never completely lose my hearing, yet it has caused a lot of frustration for me (and my wife too! She’s very patient).
I experience this frustration the most when in larger meetings or environments with extensive background noise (like restaurants and coffee shops). When I started working from home and the primary means of communication funneled through email, Skype and VOIP calls, I now have a much easier experience. I use a Plantronics wireless headset on my laptop and an Incase headphones with mic on my phone. It is much easier for me to clearly hear now. This was an unforeseen advantage I hadn’t thought about prior to working from home, and it’s an advantage for many other remote workers. The one detail that is critical with this is the tooling used for communication. The advantage comes from forcing a consistent communications experience across all workers. With this change comes the opportunity for a wider range of adaptations for a variety of disabilities.
Commute / Travel
Very few people enjoy their commute, it’s a toll of the rat race. For those with a disability, it can be a significant daily challenge. Remote working provides an opportunity to remove this as a daily hurdle. Travel may still be required, but each day working from home helps significantly.
Some medical conditions can only be managed and not cured. With the commute removed or reduced, this opens the opportunity for a wider range of schedule flexibility. The greater flexibility may assist in managing conditions. As symptoms flare up, the individual can take a break to manage their pain. While I don’t have any chronic conditions, there have been days where I’ve taken a few hours off to nap to overcome a headache or attempt to head off a cold before it set in. There are limits to schedule flexibility, but even small breaks can make a large difference.
Some conditions and disabilities can be eased by different workstation configurations. Employers traditionally already accommodate situations, but an individual working remotely from home may have additional facilities established specifically for their needs. In some situations there is the greatest opportunity for environment configuration in one’s home.
The opportunities for easing disabilities and other conditions are far greater when working remote. Situations such as special dietary constraints, air quality or lighting conditions can all be addressed on a more individual basis. Even at the extreme where some conditions render individuals bedridden for periods of time may still provide the opportunity for them to be productive and contributing to the purpose of your team and organization.
While my disability in many ways is minor, those with much greater needs are afforded a higher level of flexibility with accommodating their needs and customizing the way they work. As the trend of the individual adapted workspace grows, remote working is strongly poised to usher in a better engaged and situated worker.
… remote working is strongly poised to usher in a better engaged and situated worker.
Engage with your team and organization about your needs and configuration desires just as you would in a traditional office setting. Agree on mutual expectations and process and deliver on your organization’s purpose.