As shown in part 1, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to adjusting the workplace. Your needs might vary to someone with the same diagnosis and change according to the nature of the job. They might not even be the same adjustments you had whilst at uni. The key is figuring out how to level the playing field and here are some ideas!
The practical possibilities
By being clear about how disability impacts him and what adjustments he requires, James’ employer started paying for taxis to get him from site to site. They also gave him a laptop, so he was able to work remotely when he needs. Through exploring what works for him, he could flag when things were not working as well.
Nevertheless, it takes a lot to make that first move. The way Katherine has communicated has changed over the years. Very early on, she found it difficult to open up, felt embarrassed, and worked with lots of different teams so didn’t have anyone comfortable with to tell. She also had worries about being a ‘burden’ compounded by not knowing what adjustments you could even get for mental health conditions. Now, Katherine has a career coach based in London with her and has restricted her hours too.
Holly joined a very proactive team at Baker Mckenzie. Right from the initial interview, they were keen to give her the adjustments she needed. She was allowed her own choice of interpreter and they arranged interview dates around the interpreter’s availability. On top of this, they kept engaging and asking her what would work and how to make it work. She gets subtitles for videos and, if this isn’t possible, colleagues have readily agreed to take minutes for her in meetings.
Qassim found his needs and support changed from uni to work. At uni, he had a scribe, and at work, he has an Apple Mac laptop set up while others work from Windows. This makes a difference to him as his Mac interacts better with his disability. Furthermore, he takes regular breaks and makes it clear what his capabilities are and what is physically impossible. For example, he can have bad days that can strike suddenly so if he texts in the morning to say he won’t be in, his team knows it’s one of those bad days.
I feel it is important to note that as well as disabilities and needs being so varied, employers also vary. Also, what is a “reasonable adjustment” is a grey area but it’s still worth having that conversation. Even if you just get the understanding of a colleague like in Qassim’s job, someone who will know what’s up if you suddenly call in sick.
Covid and Remote Working
As with everyone, remote working has been a mixed bag. For Holly, working remotely has been “amazing”. The tech helped her become more productive and she uses an Interpreter on Zoom.
Katherine struggled and had a large period of absence because no one could see the impact it was having on her. Saying she wasn’t coping was difficult but, as a result, she was able to go to office during lockdown for change of scenery.
Before the pandemic, requests to work from home were often refused. Now, as the workplace rebuilds itself, flexible working is becoming normal. The agency to choose when to work remotely has already benefitted some of these speakers and might be an option for you too.
Final words of advice
Katherine urges that communication is key. If you work for big organisation, it’s difficult to know where to start. Who does what? Try taking small steps and you could start this by finding out who you can talk to.
James is seeing how being open and sharing has made other people more transparent in telling him what they need to be successful. Therefore, creating a culture of openness. By being open, you could help others voice what they need as well.
What I got from this was, whatever your needs or diagnoses are, you deserve to get what you need to work to the best of your ability.