Recently, the topic of companies ending their covid-19 work from home allowances has been a talking point across the internet. A recent significant example is Apple, which indicated that its employees would soon be required to attend the office three days a week. The world has made massive strides in accessible employment since various locations worldwide have gone into lockdown. This situation has proven that not only was it possible to provide these accommodations, but they also work. To keep workplaces accessible, ALL employees who can feasibly work remotely should be allowed to work remotely.
One person working remotely is not a helpful accommodation
In the past, some companies have allowed people with disabilities to work remotely. Whilst a seemingly reasonable accommodation, this can be less helpful than you'd initially assume. Working remotely for a company not set up for remote work can require more effort and be more draining than just working from the office. This means people with disabilities often juggle the complexities of their disconnected working arrangement alongside their regular job and managing their disability, something that can be a full-time job in itself.
If a company correctly accepts a hybrid model where anyone can work from home, enough people will work from home for the company to adequately accommodate for it. This means that managing yourself compared to your team is no longer a massive task on top of your regular job.
Not everyone has visible disabilities
In situations where companies allow people with disabilities to work remotely, many people who need accommodation can still fall through the cracks. Especially with invisible disabilities, medical professionals and employers routinely ignore people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. For these people, convincing their employer that they need these accommodations without medical proof can be a daunting and stressful task. In some cases, they may also not want their coworkers knowing that they need accommodations. Some people can also be hesitant to approach their employer for accommodations out of fear, despite reasonable accommodations being a legal right in many places.
When companies allow anyone to work remotely with no questions asked, these people can get the accommodations they need without facing problems.
Disabilities are inconsistent
Some people with disabilities can work from an office on occasion; they most likely want to for socialisation and other workplace benefits. However, disabilities are not consistent. Many companies moving away from having a fully flexible work location appeal to those who wish to work remotely by only requiring employees to attend the office on certain days of the week. Requiring people with disabilities to come into the office a limited amount of time, especially on a strict schedule, generally does not work. It's challenging to predict and control a disability; the unexpected can happen anytime and significantly impact the level of functionality someone can perform. Some people undergo flare-ups that can last multiple months to years, preventing working from an office for that time. Scheduling a week around a few better days that allow going to the office is almost always not feasible nor reasonable.
For all people who need location-flexibility based accommodations to truly receive them, everyone needs to receive location-flexibility. There are, of course, other arguments for and against flexible working environments, but from an accessibility perspective, allowing everyone flexible working locations is the clear winner.
About the Author
Hi, I'm Maddy Miller, a Senior Software Engineer at Clipchamp at Microsoft. In my spare time I love writing articles, and I also develop the Minecraft mods WorldEdit, WorldGuard, and CraftBook. My opinions are my own and do not represent those of my employer in any capacity.