The workplace should be a place where people can use their talents and specific skills, whilst receiving training and support. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, especially for people with additional needs, who find that they are different to the stereotypical worker that the company might be imagining. This can result in a more difficult work experience and missing out on valuable opportunities.
There are plenty of ways that employers and colleagues can help make sure that the workplace is a thriving place of equal opportunity. Here, we take a look at three tips that can help you get started.
Work to eliminate unconscious bias
Unconscious bias refers to the tendency that humans form assumptions about someone without necessarily realizing that we’re doing it. It’s unconscious, so no one is exempt from thinking like this, but the important thing is to put in the work to become more aware of it and stop it influencing your behavior.
In business, companies should encourage open communication about unconscious bias. There are training schemes that specifically tackle this issue, so it can be worth investigating if you can get someone into the office to give a talk or session about how you can avoid unconscious bias.
There are also several ways you can aim to avoid unconscious bias when hiring, such as advertising job roles in a range of places, using blind CVs, and having initial phone interviews. All of these actions can help you attract a range of candidates and make an informed decision about whether they’re a good fit for the role based on their experience, not their physical characteristics.
Make accessibility a given, not an opt-in
Whilst you should always ask people to let you know if they have any specific accessibility requirements, thinking ahead can go a long way to making everyone feel comfortable and included. For example, making all your meeting rooms accessible and wheelchair-friendly can mean that any team member can use them, rather than the person with a disability needing to specifically ask for the meeting to be held in an accessible room.
This goes for remote working as well. Using closed captions on video calls can help people who may struggle with hearing loss, or for whom English is not their native language, to ensure they are involved in everything that is said. Additionally, recording calls can mean that team members who struggle to keep up in heavy discussion or find it hard to come up with ideas instantly have the opportunity to watch the call back, and give their feedback in their own time.
Allow for flexibility
Not everyone has the same needs or the same schedule. Whilst you might love working at 8am, other people may have medical needs or childcare that mean that it’s better for them to start work later. Allowing for flexibility in working hours can help people balance their needs and their caring responsibilities with work.
You shouldn’t assume that someone wants to start later just because they want to sleep – but even if that is the case, some of us are larks and some of us are night owls, so you should respect that where it makes business sense to.
Not only will this encourage a wider range of people into your workplace, but it means that when they do arrive at work, they’re not stressed and trying to organize multiple things at the same time.
We hope that these tips will provide both employers and colleagues unique insights to ensure that the workplace is a safe and welcoming place for all employees.