How a Hybrid Office Benefits People with Disabilities (French version available)
When the pandemic began, thousands of workers switched from working in an office to working from home. Although many people are returning to office work, other employers and employees are choosing a hybrid model of working both from home and from the office. For many disabled workers, a good hybrid model could be the best system for giving both the flexibility and the support they need.
The pandemic forced many people to change the way they did their jobs. Sometimes they worked entirely from home, but at other times, they would have a hybrid schedule of going to the office for a day or two each week. Over half of knowledge workers like writers and researchers have worked this way for years, but a hybrid arrangement was new to many people. Some of them found the adjustment difficult.
For people with disabilities, a hybrid office arrangement can be helpful. In some cases, chronic conditions can make it difficult to get to work. For example, certain conditions like anemia or migraines drain people’s energy and make it hard for them to concentrate. If they can work from home instead of going to the office, they are less likely to miss work because of their condition. They can choose when and where to work, matching their schedule to their energy level.
Other disabilities can also make a hybrid work schedule beneficial. Someone who has trouble walking, for example, might prefer not to go to the office for a day or two after a snowstorm to make sure that the roads and sidewalks are as clear as possible. A person with arm or wrist troubles might have voice activation software at home to make it easier to write long reports and prefer to work from there rather than the office.
Back trouble can make it difficult to sit for hours. At home, people can use their own chairs and cushions to make the day as comfortable as possible. They might even choose to work longer hours but to take breaks to stretch their backs whenever necessary. In a traditional office setting, this could be very difficult to do if the office closes at a set time. Working from home, people can take the time they need to avoid pain.
Other disabilities can also make office work difficult. Someone with social anxiety, for example, might find it stressful to be among people all day and need time alone to help with concentration. Mental health problems can become much worse if people are forced to be among others all the time.
Even with the advantages of working from home, many people still need some time in the office. Sometimes, their home life makes it difficult to get work done, such as when family members are noisy, when cooking or cleaning needs to be done, or a television program is on. Learning the discipline to keep on working despite distractions at home takes time.
A hybrid work arrangement can help. With a well-organized hybrid job, people with disabilities can work from home when they need the time away from the office but still get help from their colleagues when necessary. Hybrid offices can be a good solution for many workplaces.
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Lightfoot, Diane. “Are Your Hybrid Working Plans Inclusive of Disabled People?” https://www.hrzone.com/lead/strategy/are-your-hybrid-working-plans-inclusive-of-disabled-people.
Siddall, Kim. “Expert Panel: Considerations for Disability Management in a Hybrid Work Environment.” https://www.benefitscanada.com/expertpanel_/kim-siddall/expert-panel-considerations-for-managing-disabilities-in-a-hybrid-work-environment/.