Creating an inclusive workplace

Inclusivity is no longer just a buzzword within the business world, it’s a way of life. Companies who drag their feet in terms of equal opportunities, especially when it comes to catering for the needs of disabled employees, quickly find themselves left behind in terms of recruiting and retaining the best staff. Worse still, the reputation that comes hand-in-hand with a backward thinking attitude doesn’t bode well when attempting to attract new clients.

The issue lies with the fact that companies think that by ticking the legal boxes, in terms of what they need to provide for disabled workers, they are well equipped for a disabled worker to start work within their organisation. In reality, simply offering disabled parking spots, toilet facilities and accessible entrances isn’t enough to facilitate the majority of employees with restricted movement, as was revealed in a survey carried out by CMD in partnership with Shaw Trust, the national charity for helping disabled workers find employment.

Is your office realistically set up to suit disabled employees?

The survey went out to 515 workers, aged between 18-64, asking them to have a realistic look around their own workplace to determine whether it would be suitable for a disabled employee to start working there with immediate effect, and if not, what obstacles would stop them.

Here’s what the survey revealed…


Attention to detail

As the survey reveals, there are numerous obstacles around the every-day office that fully mobile employees may not even notice. Trailing cables and uneven flooring can create a real hazard for someone with restricted mobility, hard to access plug sockets can be an impossibility and un-adjustable desks can make tasks that we all take for granted uncomfortable and even painful.

The good news is, there are numerous products on the market that can easily rectify these issues, and far from being ‘one-off’ specialist purchases to suit individual employees, they can benefit the entire office.

Adjustable desks and monitor arms are a great way to address the different heights and working positions required for all workers, not just disabled employees. Not only do they help address problems with posture and enable employees to work in a standing position if they wish, they are also a great way to incorporate hot desking into the working environment, as all work stations can be adapted to suit all employees.

Simple measures such as on-desk power modules, can make a huge difference to employees who may have difficulties bending down to locate sockets underneath desks, and cable spines and baskets have the double benefit of securing trailing cables whilst creating a much tidier appearance to the office.

Investing in the workforce as a whole

Although the emphasis is on creating an inclusive working environment for workers with restricted movement, this doesn’t necessarily relate solely to employees who are registered as disabled. It is also worth acknowledging that restricted movement comes in all guises, from employees who suffer from back pain or age related conditions to those who have broken bones and even women in the later stages of pregnancy.

Attracting and retaining the best possible staff

Adapting facilities to assist the working lives of disabled employees doesn’t just apply to creating a workplace suitable for new recruits. Retention of disabled employees is as much of an issue, as this startling fact presented by the Business Disability Forum highlights:

7 out of 10 people with disabilities become disabled during their working lives

With this in mind, it is clear that there is more to inclusivity than simply working your way through the HR manual. Take a look around your office and reassess the space through the eyes of someone with restricted movement. You may find that simple adjustments can make a huge difference to the comfort and manoeuvrability of employees, ultimately creating the optimum working environment for everyone.

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