The impact of remote working on those with a disability and/or neurodivergence

Cheerful young woman in headphones having web conference while working from home

Remote working is an overwhelmingly positive experience for many of those with a disability and/or neurodivergence, according to a Coventry University academic who appeared before MPs this month.

Dr Christine Grant, an Associate Professor at the university’s Research Centre for Healthcare and Communities, has conducted extensive research into the impact of remote working on disabled and/or neurodivergent people and appeared before the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

Investigating Disability Employment Support

The aim of the committee is to investigate how disabled people can be better supported to start and stay in work, while assessing how effective the Government’s recent efforts have been in narrowing the disability employment gap.

The Remote4All project, launched by Dr Grant, involved a number of organisations including the NHS, Vodafone and neurobox, and invited employees with disabilities and/or neurodivergence to share their experiences of remote working.

Caption: Dr Chris Grant at Westminster where she addressed the Work and Pensions Select Committee

The project concluded there is the need for an overarching government policy on remote working to help level the playing field for disabled and/or neurodivergent workers.

Amplifying Benefits for Disabled Workers

Addressing the committee, Dr Grant explained that remote working amplifies the benefits for many disabled and/or neurodivergent workers, allowing them to be more comfortable, less tired, more productive and being better able to control their environment.

However, such working arrangements needed to be thought through carefully to avoid risks such as people working when poorly, becoming socially isolated or losing motivation.

Importance of Technology and Manager Support

Dr Grant explained that technology had played a huge role in the expansion of remote working, but stressed the importance of discussions with line managers to ensure that appropriate and supportive arrangements were in place for individuals.

Speaking before the committee, Dr Grant said: “Remote working was found overwhelmingly to be a very positive accommodation for many in this group who said it improved their quality of life. Some of the practical things, saving time and money, the long commute, for some people was eliminated or reduced and this improvement in quality of life overall was found to be very important to this group.”

She added: “There’s not a one size fits all approach, there needs to be manager support, there needs to be that conversation, professionals such as occupational health need to be involved so you can help work through issues on an individual level.”

Advocating for Government Policy

Dr Grant believes introducing a Government policy relating to remote working was important as it would help provide guidance and set the direction of travel for organisations.

Speaking after the hearing, Dr Grant added: “It was a really interesting experience speaking before the committee. I think it’s really important to destigmatise remote working for this group of people because we’ve found it to be an incredibly positive experience for them in gaining and sustaining work. My hope is that the Committee will take on board the idea of developing a Line Manager Toolkit for disabled and/or neurodiverse remote workers, which is the focus of my next funded project.”

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To find out more about Dr Grant’s Remote4All project visit https://www.coventry.ac.uk/news/2022/remote4all/ 

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