The structure of employment has been greatly impacted by the current global pandemic.
There are the heartbreaking statistics of millions of people losing their jobs, either temporarily or permanently as well as businesses completely shutting down. It is important to recognize that the disability community has been greatly impacted by these layoffs as it has been determined by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics that 20 percent of workers with disabilities have lost their jobs in comparison to 14 percent of the general public.
With that being said, the way businesses have responded to the global pandemic in moving their work structure to that of telecommuting and having their employees work from home is a positive change for the disability community. Up until the beginning of the recent pandemic, working from home has been looked at as a less productive option that was far and few between. This fact, however, has frustrated many people with disabilities as employers readily accommodated all workers regardless of disability simply due to the pandemic. Many people with disabilities asked for the ability to work from home long before COVID-19 and were denied this option. When it was a benefit to the company, employers were readily willing but when an employer did not see this option as a benefit, people with disabilities were told that working from home would make them less productive, cost too much, or was simply not possible. We now see that working from home is indeed a viable option.
Businesses are realizing that working from home has not brought as much impact on productivity as people may have originally thought. Businesses are also seeing a positive impact regarding expenses; they are saving money on workspace expenses and travel. There is also the positive that working from home is more environmental.
Major corporations like Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Zillow, and REI have all recognized the benefits of allowing their employees to work from home and have adopted a “remote-first” model. Twitter and Facebook have announced that some employees will permanently work from home. Amazon and Google have announced that they will extend their “remote-first” model, Amazon employees may choose to work from home until January 2021 and Google until July of 2021. Microsoft has created a database to collect and analyze data to hopefully determine the best fit for their workforce whether it be in an office, remote-first, or a mixture of both. Zillow has announced that they will be 95% online and REI is even selling some of their office spaces to move to more remote and satellite spaces.
This transition to allowing more and more people to work from home is a huge win for any employee looking to easily relocate to their desired place of living but is even more so a positive change for many within the disability community. This accommodation represents how designing structures to be accessible to the disability community is beneficial to more people than just those who are disabled, but to society as a whole.
People with disabilities have been desiring for the ability to work from home for years showing that disability drives innovation. If companies had implemented this remote-first structure when many workers with disabilities were promoting it, the foundation would have already existed, and transitioning to working from home due to COVID-19 would not have been as big a deal. If the work from home structure already had a firm foundation, many people would have been able to easily transition to working from home without the fear of less productivity and the added stress of uncertainty that comes from the unknown.
COVID-19 is driving innovation that is resulting in concepts of which the disability community has been advocating for years. We at Wandke Consulting are here to assist your company in making your business more accessible both online and in person. We desire for organizations to take leadership in accessibility and incorporate disability inclusion into overall business practices. If your company is ready to include the $490 billion market of the disability community, contact us so we can know how we can help you be as innovative as possible and inclusive to all.