Following on from our awesome introduction to reasonable adjustments here are some rock solid examples …. So most of us have heard the phrase ‘reasonable adjustments’ at some point. It’s a stock phrase used by equal opportunities and diversity all the time but one that probably isn’t used as it should, like many things designed to help and empower those who need it, it can be underused, or over abused.
I’ve been in lots of meetings about ‘reasonable adjustments’ and because I’m someone who relies on them to manage. Some react well and help, others get confused or panicked and try a ‘one size fits all’ or worse, do nothing, because for them that’s quicker or easier.
Employers worry it’s too costly, be unfair to others or they simply don’t understand what disabled employee needs.
Most employers provide the physical aspects to support disabled employees. Lifts, ramps, Braille, hearing loops, ergonomic keyboards etc. All these are standard in most workplaces, and they should be. But what about someone who doesn’t need that?
Disabled people like everyone come in all shapes and sizes. We all have different needs and abilities.
Reasonable adjustments shouldn’t be hard or costly to implement, aren’t there to be unfair to others, and isn’t a chore. It’s ensuring that any workplace gets the best out of employees.
So what adjustments could someone make that doesn’t involve ramps, or re-shuffling a department
1) Lights, noise, un-action!
We rarely think of our work conditions and surroundings, but it has a huge impact on us and our productivity often unconsciously. Some thrive on a nosy, busy workplace but for others it’s pure torture. Lights, noises, smells, crowds all play havoc with me. This doesn’t mean you have to make your whole department silent because someone’s super sensitive. Look at moving to a quieter workplace, or aids like earplugs or headphones. If it’s viable consider home working at times. Look into lights with less harsh glare.
2) Flexible hours
Most people struggle to get through the morning rush/coffee haze of getting to work. Throw in a disability and it’s worse. Think of someone who’s medication makes them dozy, or their condition makes their limbs seize up. Little things can cause huge anxiety like travelling or having to rush. Employers could allow start and finish times outside of ‘rush hours’ to take off pressure, or having a set amount of hours per week where you can complete when feeling at your best is excellent when your health fluctuates a lot, which happens to a lot of disabled people
3) Co-workers attitudes
Makes or breaks a workplace, because it impacts on the mood and sets a tone. Friendly, helpful and supportive colleagues are hugely important. They can help share work-loads, be soundboards, be buffers and have a deeper understanding of their co-workers struggles day-to-day. A bad attitude or lack of empathy or patience is hard to handle for anyone at work. Remember a good team, does a good job.
Obvious but vital. I can’t imagine being in a wheelchair but I do know the frustration of a poor memory. Information and training are important. Disabilities affect our behaviours. Normal things can be a struggle and people need to understand. If someone’s in constant pain, this wears down even the most stoic and chipper employee. Or someone who can’t remember how to photocopy is a constant source of irritation. Bosses and co-workers need to have some understanding of the disability or illness. They need to know what do/not do and even have action plans for the future – if an illness gets worse at some point, they need to be prepared. People don’t like what they don’t understand. Educate and inform.
5) Frequent breaks.
Again simple but solid. Disabled people tend to get more tired quickly. It takes more energy to do things. Working without proper breaks can be excessively stressful and may trigger relapse for some people when they are becoming unwell. This doesn’t mean attempting to have a lukewarm coffee while juggling the phone and customers. It means a proper rest from your job. Ten minutes of peace does wonders for productivity.
And one extra:
Different methods of working:
Don’t assume people do things the same way. If the end result is the same, should it really matter if things are done in a different order? This was a huge bug-bear for me and my ex manager. He couldn’t understand my methods and I couldn’t make sense of his. Let people try things a different way. All our brains are wired differently, maybe they even have a better way of doing something. Don’t be rigid in your methods, because the best know how to adapt.