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Group of diverse workers high five around a meeting table

Work environments matter

Flexible, inclusive workplaces are winning. Let’s see why.

The work environment established by management can either make or break employment opportunities for people, regardless of whether they have a disability or not. You may have heard the saying ‘people leave managers, not companies’. Can you relate?

Stop for a moment and think about your experiences in the workforce. Have you tended to work in environments where your individuality was accepted or were the conditions more restrictive? Have you felt pressure to ‘fit in’ or been afraid to ask for what you need to ensure you could realistically sustain your employment?

If you own a business or manage a team, this is a great opportunity to reflect on the climate you are fostering.

  • Are your people accepted for who they are and their needs accommodated where possible? Or have you noticed they tend towards being anxious and ‘weighed down’ from poor work/life balance?
  • What flexibility do you offer your team, in terms of accommodating their health, their families and other personal circumstances?
  • Do you have a high staff turnover?
  • Is the physical environment of the workplace conducive to good health?
  • Are you committed to growing diversity and fostering inclusion in your team?

As you might guess, positive workplace environments that encourage diversity are known for being innovative and enjoy healthy rates of staff retention. Research shows greater employee loyalty, better productivity and less numbers of ‘sick’ days (absenteeism) when workplaces are flexible.

So, how are positive and flexible workplaces created? Both the formal and informal policies an organisation implements are telling. For example, the culture of the workplace is shaped by the way management responds to stress, difference and people’s individual needs. The level of priority that management places on the physical and emotional health of the team is also a significant factor.

In Australia, employers must make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to accommodate an employee with a disability. In our work as rehabilitation counsellors, we have found most barriers can be overcome with creative thinking and a commitment to resolving the issue. Consider how each of these small changes could open up possibilities for people with particular disabilities:

  • ergonomic devices and adjustable work surfaces, such as stand-up desks
  • larger computer screens, screen magnifiers, screen readers, specialised listening devices and assistive software
  • offering work from home, job sharing and part time work opportunities
  • reorganising the pattern of work to alternate work duties and rotate tasks to reduce strain and repetitive movement
  • adjusting the physical layout of the workplace or installing a wheelchair ramp
  • permitting moves from day shift to night shift (or vice versa)
  • spreading certain tasks out over the day, rather than demanding they be completed in one sitting or in one time frame.

The move towards universal design

Watch Leacey Brown as she highlights the importance of a user-focused approach to design for everyone.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Your task

Consider how flexible workplace policies benefit the employer, the worker and the wider team. Select the comments link and post your thoughts on why flexible workplaces are winning.

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This article is from the free online course:

Realising Career Potential: Rethinking Disability

Griffith University

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