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What are the benefits of remote working for accessibility?

Benefits of remote working for accessibility

One of the biggest shifts away from the traditional workplace happened in 2020 when the world underwent massive changes in how we worked. Mass-scale remote working was being adopted for the first time in human history. With this shift, society realised that the benefits of remote working could greatly enhance accessibility to better careers for the most marginalised among us. 

This is why, as we adapt to this evolving work model, it’s important to consider how it influences inclusivity and accessibility. For example, around 16% of the people in the world have a form of disability, meaning there are 1.3 billion people with disabilities. Many among these 1.3 billion have to contend with inaccessible office buildings, poor transport, limited physical abilities, etc. In light of this information, we must ask, why aren’t there more accessible options for people with disabilities to build their careers? 

There’s more to the story. Sharing her personal journey and insights into the topic is Maeve O’Briant, Digital Content Creator at the Sophie Hayes Foundation.

Evolution of Remote Work

Since the shift towards remote working came at us like a high-speed train, we’ve witnessed our own approaches to work changing, too. Across different industries, remote working has proven to be an efficient, cost-effective alternative to the traditional workplace. These benefits have convinced many employers to maintain the remote working model to some degree instead of reverting to an in-person one.

“Remote working is definitely increasing significantly. The stats speak for themselves, but just look at LinkedIn—everyone seems to be at least hybrid working as a result of the pandemic,” Maeve explained. 

“I do see a push to return to office, but in a hybrid capacity. More people are recognising and embracing the benefits of remote work. In the charity sector, in particular, there’s a greater embrace of remote working from an accessibility and inclusion perspective. This sector tends to be more aware of issues impacting human rights and wellbeing since that’s what many of them have been founded to protect.”

Businesses have redefined their operations in other ways. One notable trend is the widespread adoption of digital collaboration tools, which have become essential for maintaining productivity and communication. Additionally, there has been a growing emphasis on work-life balance, with many organisations implementing policies to support employee well-being. This evolution reflects a broader cultural shift towards valuing flexibility and autonomy in the workplace. But aside from the general benefits to the work landscape, a notable major benefit was that it made finding better jobs easier for those struggling with accessibility.

Benefits of remote working for accessibility

Remote working has emerged as an important method for enhancing inclusivity and accessibility in the workplace. By eliminating the need for physical presence, remote work allows individuals with disabilities, those living in remote areas, and people with caregiving responsibilities to participate more fully in the workforce. 

This model can help break down barriers that have traditionally limited access to employment opportunities. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2021, only 19.1% of disabled people in the US were employed, compared to 63.7% of the non-disabled population. This highlights the extreme discrimination faced by disabled individuals in traditional work environments. Remote work offers a solution by providing these individuals with more job opportunities and the ability to work in settings tailored to their needs.

Addressing unseen needs

Remote working has brought to light several previously unseen or unacknowledged needs within the workforce. 

“Despite appearing quite able, I am disabled. Becoming disabled about four years ago, I initially feared my career might be over without accommodations. I found that my artistic career was unsustainable long-term due to health concerns. I then looked for more office-based roles, finding a hybrid role that allowed for rest days and social interaction. However, I realised I needed more support and a fully remote job, which led me to a social media copywriting agency. This job was fully remote and allowed me to choose my own hours,” Maeve explained.

Today, in her role at the Sophie Hayes Foundation, Maeve says she is quite satisfied with the continued use of a hybrid/work-from-home model.

“Traditional working models often stretch one’s capacity thin, affecting the quality and quantity of work. Remote working has enabled me to find a job that is fulfilling, fairly compensates me, and allows for a balanced life. It supports a sense of equity rather than equality. We need equity that lifts people with disabilities up, ensuring everyone has the support they need to succeed,” she elaborated.

Remote working has helped centre a better work-life balance and shine a light on the importance of mental health support. It has also underscored the necessity of accessible technology and reliable internet connections for the working population. Those without access to adequate technology to work from home often got sidelined and addressing this required acknowledging the technological divide.

By addressing these needs, companies have been able to create a more supportive and productive environment for their employees. The ability to tailor workspaces to individual preferences and the flexibility to manage personal and professional responsibilities are key advantages that remote work offers.

Benefits for marginalised communities

Marginalised communities, including those with disabilities, minority races and genders, and individuals from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, stand to gain significantly from remote work models. Remote work can provide these groups with more opportunities and a more inclusive work environment. 

For example, remote jobs can reduce the financial burden of commuting and allow individuals to work in a setting where they feel comfortable and supported. On top of that, remote work can help bridge the gap between urban and rural employment opportunities, promoting economic equity and diversity. 

As there are disabled individuals who contend with sensory issues, remote work eliminates the stress of commuting and allows them to customise their work environment to meet their specific needs, such as adjusting lighting, noise levels, and ergonomic setups. 

For Maeve, working remotely instead of commuting daily helped increase how much energy she could spare within a day for other tasks.

Using the Spoon Theory as an example, Maeve explained, “The Spoon Theory is a concept where a spoon represents a unit of energy. An average person might have 12 spoons a day, with each activity draining a spoon. But not everyone starts with the same number of spoons. For example, I struggle with chronic fatigue and wake up with fewer spoons, making my spoons more precious. Activities that might take one spoon for others might take two or three for me. Remote working saves me those spoons used for commuting, allowing me to use them for both work and enjoying life after work.”

A return to tradition?

The debate over the long-term viability of remote work continues to be a hot topic. Some advocate for a complete shift to remote work, while others prefer maintaining traditional workplace models. 

Yet the argument still swings slightly in favour of remote work—depending on the industry and/or role.

“Remote working has hugely influenced my career journey, enabling me to find a fulfilling job that fairly compensates me and supports me in having an outside life,” Maeve shared.

“When you’re job hunting, go in knowing what you won’t bend on. If you need remote working to function, have that as your bottom line—a hard boundary. Establishing your needs helps carve out a career path that sustains and helps you thrive because it supports you rather than takes away from you. Many career paths can take away from people, not just disabled people because they’re not supportive of human needs. Remote working is really challenging that.”

The benefits of remote working can go farther

The benefits of remote working have laid bare the immense potential it holds in improving accessibility and inclusivity across various industries. By addressing unseen needs and offering significant benefits to marginalised communities, remote work is reshaping the professional world. In fact, it is vital to address the right to work remotely for people across the world in order to further enhance accessibility and give them the space to grow their careers.

As Maeve highlighted, “I didn’t know my rights until they were potentially pushed a little bit. Once you know your rights and what you can ask for, nothing is stopping you from asking. Remote working, if you struggle with fatigue, chronic pain, or any chronic illness or disability, can be a reasonable adjustment to do your job excellently and equitably.”

Just because people do not work in an official office setting, does not mean they aren’t capable of putting out top-quality work on par with industry standards. Overall, remote working could make career growth a more viable option for many who need it most.

If you want to kick your career off the right way this year, book a call with us, and let’s talk about it. You can also subscribe to our newsletter for the latest career information, tips, and updates. (They’re both completely free!)

Kahless

Kahless

Kahless is a writer with a special interest in sociology. He spends much of his free time travelling, reading, writing, and stopping his cats from ripping apart everything he owns. It’s advised to bring along a strong cup of coffee (3 espresso shots minimum) when approaching him.

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