Accommodations in a Post-COVID Workforce

What has your organization learned about accommodation in the pandemic? 

There is no denying that workplaces have changed in enormous ways since 2020 and the current COVID-19 pandemic. One of the biggest conversations in the aftermath has been that of accessibility and accommodation at work. 

Prior to the pandemic, many disabled activists have (correctly) pointed out the ways in which accommodation requests which have been denied for years– such as flexible hours and working from home —  suddenly became possible as soon as larger swaths of the workforce could no longer safely work in the office. For the chronically ill, the base level of sick time, flex hours, and the like have been insufficient to support their needs in the long term. 

As we began to consider in our last blog post, employers must increasingly consider what they are doing to support more flexibility as we collectively strive to recover from the recession brought on by the pandemic. Monitor Mag points out that “The COVID-19 crisis [has shown] that a hyper-individualized approach to access is inadequate.” Creating plans to accommodate individuals’ needs will always be necessary, but before that, we must re-examine standards, cultures, and collective approaches to making work more accessible.

Shifting workplace culture can be difficult, but an easy place to start can be in the policies and practices used by your organization that affect everyone. Consider  countries like Belgium, who have adopted a 4-day work week to allow for easier work-life balance.  Or, as is already popular in other European countries, regularly closing for lunch breaks and parts of the afternoon to allow for more resting throughout the day. Closer to home, Twitter has implemented a permanent work from home model for their employees.  

Practices like these provide more flexibility for employees to make health appointments, prioritize rest, and feel more prepared to tackle their tasks throughout the week. As the effects of “long COVID” include decreased stamina and other symptoms still under study, the key to caring for and retaining teams must include broad accommodations and empowering individuals to attend to their needs with support from their employers. 

Studies have also shown that in an 8-hour work day, the average worker only accomplishes about 3 hours of actual work, leading to an overall waste of time for both the employee and employer. This may have also shifted in the increased normalization of working from home: where workers have had the opportunity to take care of their household duties alongside work ones, with the elimination of their commutes. This frees up more time for balancing work focus with family time, leading to healthier, flourishing, more invested members of the organization. 

We want to know: What practices have you implemented in your workplace in the pandemic, that you plan to keep in the long term? What further changes are on the horizon for you and your team in the coming recovery period? 

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