Saturday, April 1, 2023

Disabled Employees Are Reaping the Benefits of Remote Work

Disabled Employees Are Reaping the Benefits of Remote Work

For some employees, the pandemic has been a blow to their professional success. But for disabled workers, the past year has created new opportunities that have helped them kick start their careers.

In wake of record breaking layoffs and unemployment, the labor force is still suffering from a nation-wide labor shortage. As the need to fill open positions continues to grow, companies are broadening their recruiting criteria — a trend that may inadvertently begin creating more jobs for disabled workers.

“HR professionals have pulled out all the stops to attract talent,” says Dianne Winiarski from disability insurance provider, Allsup. “And we have an extremely motivated and qualified population that truly remains uncapped.”

In 2020, the unemployment rate for disabled workers was 12.6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — nearly double the unemployment rate of those without disabilities at 7.9%. The discrepancy is most commonly attributed to discrimination in the hiring process and a lack of accomodations. The pandemic brought about a complete shift to remote work, a move that benefited many disabled workers, including a large number within Allsup’s network, according to Winiarski.

“COVID-19 completely changed how you approach a return to work,” she says. “During the pandemic, many employers could make new cost accommodations such as flexible work hours and work from home arrangements.”

Pre-pandemic, employers had no idea how productive a WFH employee base could be, according to Winiarski, a variable that kept many employers from taking the plunge with disabled workers who needed the flexibility. Moving forward into post-pandemic planning, many companies have seen an uptick in productivity and plan to keep remote positions as part of their permanent offering, which drastically opens up the pipeline for disabled applicants.

Although the adoption of more remote positions will prove to be helpful, the possibilities don’t end there. With more and more employees preferring a work-from home setting, in-person positions will also be up for grabs and disabled workers have proved to have both the skills and motivation to fill them.

At Allsup, Winiarski has seen a lot of success with beneficiaries who actually wanted on-site placement — nearly equal to that of remote placements.

Factoring disabled workers into hiring is not just a short-term solution to the labor shortage, either. Companies who have a diverse workforce are more likely to retain the talent when they hire, which in turn leads to better job satisfaction and less time and more money devoted to recruitment and an increase in productivity, Winiarski says.

Only time will tell if the “new normal” will play a significant role in closing the opportunity gap between disabled and non-disabled workers — until then, it’s up to companies to decide how they want to move forward.

“If [companies] create a diverse and inclusive workforce, it’ll keep their business now and in the future,” Winiarski says. “It will not only be beneficial and practical for their company, it’s also an essential part of the modern workforce.”