Through gritted teeth, there is always someone who says that they love change. That is until a particular change comes along which causes them to worry. I suspect, a bit like Room 101 in George Orwell’s 1984 where people are subjected to their own worst nightmare, fear or phobia, we all have a vulnerable point when it comes to change in our lives. This week we are moving offices. On the surface its only a shuffle round in the existing offices to create a bit more space following a restructuring. Surely no-one can be worried or anxious about that?
One of the subjects which has come up at the University Equality and Diversity Committee recently is how change – re-organisation, relocation, restructuring – can particularly affect people with a disability. Such discussions tend to start out ensuring that some of the more obvious, physical disabilities are catered for such as access to buildings, availability of specialist equipment etc. In today’s age most managers are already very sensitive to this. But sometimes the less visible disabilities are, well, less visible and perhaps forgotten in these situations. A friend has dyslexia which, for her, is very sensitive to different lighting conditions. A move of desk could easily create concern, and not everyone wants to speak up. I have worked with colleagues on the autistic spectrum, for whom certainty about their work surroundings is vital if they are to be able to work effectively and not suffer stress. I once led a business restructuring which had a huge effect on an employee with bipolar disorder as the anxiety about change seriously affected her mood and ability to do her job.
These are just some of my experiences. With over 10 million disabled people in the UK, and nearly 7 million of those of working age, it is likely that many of us will either experience disability ourselves, or work with people with a disability. Its something that that BBC are highlighting in the coming week. If you are facing organisational change, either as a manager or a member of staff, do consider what support everyone needs, but especially those who may be finding the change even more difficult. Its always a good idea for managers to meet with people before embarking on change, and for those with a disability help is available through the usual University channels.