A Coventry University academic has launched a project to investigate how the shift to working from home impacts people with disabilities and neurodiversity.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of people across the UK to work from home and nine out of 10 disabled office workers surveyed by YouGov for the Trades Union Congress (TUC) want to continue working from home some of the time once the Covid crisis eases, with many fighting for the right before the pandemic began.
Now Dr Christine Grant, a researcher in the Centre for Healthcare Research at Coventry University, is working with the NHS in the South East of England, telecommunications company Vodafone, Coventry City Council, Leonard Cheshire, Dyslexia Box, SEND and other disability charities on the Remote4All project in a bid to fill a gap in understanding the impact of home working.
Dr Grant is leading on the Remote4All project and says the aim is to use the findings to help design policies and practices for inclusive work environments.
She said: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, homeworking increased rapidly, with 46% of working adults working from home by April 2020.*
“As we emerge from lockdown, many employers are looking to continue remote e-working, permanently or in combination with office-based arrangement.
“These new work arrangements might be ideal for some but not all, therefore, evaluation of remote working is essential to implement adjustments to accommodate all workers’ needs, while ensuring both productivity and wellbeing are maintained.
“There is a considerable lack of scientific knowledge about the advantages and disadvantages of remote e-working for individuals with disabilities. People with a disability and specific needs might be overlooked by employers, feel invisible and not valued as members of their work community.
“We believe information is needed, to give an in-depth understanding of the lived experience of people with disabilities or neurodiversity, and to gather insightful information for the design of policies and practices for inclusive work environments from employers and key stakeholders.”
The team will use information gathered from reviews of existing academic research and new in-depth online interviews with employers, employees and stakeholders to identify challenges and resources for the creation of inclusive work environments that will be used to advise on the main recommendations and guidelines for the future.
A toolkit will also be developed to support individuals, organisations and practitioners that can feed into guidance to influence wider societal and government policy.
Vodafone have shifted to a model which enables more remote working and Carl Clarke, Vodafone Group Director of Talent, Learning & Skills explained their involvement.
He said: “We are delighted to be working with Coventry University on the Remote4All project. As we embrace the transition to hybrid working, we want to ensure everyone has access to the benefits of remote working. This research will provide valuable insights into the remote working experience of people with a disability and those with specific needs, enabling us to better support all our employees and provide an inclusive remote working experience for all.”
For more information see: https://digit-research.org/research/innovation-fund/
*Figures from the Office of National Statistics. (2020). Coronavirus and homeworking in the UK: April 2020. https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/coronavirusandhomeworkingintheuk/april2020