Today more than ever, employers are thinking outside the proverbial box to meet the diverse needs of individual employees—and realizing that doing so can be a key strategy for retraining talented workers, including those who may develop disabilities, whether due to injury, illness or the natural aging process.
One increasingly popular strategy on this front is workplace flexibility. Workplace flexibility takes many forms. For example, for a new parent, it might mean a part-time work schedule. For a person with a mobility disability, it might mean telecommuting, occasionally or on a full-time basis, to assist with transportation challenges. For a person with a chronic illness, it might mean an adapted schedule to manage medical appointments or medication administration. Regardless of reason, research shows that strategies such as telework and flextime contribute greatly to increased productivity—for all employees, including employees with disabilities.
While workplace flexibility is often associated with when and where employees work, it also covers flexibility of task. That can mean redefining or customizing an individual’s job description to capitalize on their strengths so that they can best assist you in addressing your business needs. Again, this is a practice that can benefit all employees.
A number of resources can assist employers in understanding the many facets of workplace flexibility and how to implement effective flexible employment arrangements. For instance, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) developed a Workplace Flexibility Toolkit that centralizes resources focused on helping employers and employees maintain a strong work-life balance. Furthermore, the Families and Work Institute’s Workplace Flexibility Among Small Employers provides a number of strategies, and its 2014 National Study of Employers/Including the Talents of Employees with Disabilities addresses workplace flexibility from the disability perspective in particular.