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Part two - Workplace adjustments... where do I start and what have I got to gain?

23 Apr 2018

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By Mandy Mcburney, Remploy Head of workplace disability services

The benefits associated with an effective workplace adjustment programme are clear. But where do organisations start, to reap the benefits?

In my experience, it’s important to recognise and explore key areas of ‘pain’. For example, might sickness absence and retention rates, be linked to and impacted by the lack of, or effectiveness of a workplace adjustments programme?

Some organisations already recognise the need to address these challenges and want to invest in their inclusion, wellbeing, talent attraction and retention strategies.

So ask yourself; do you see challenges, and/or opportunities within your business that may link to how you provide workplace adjustments?

Getting to the heart of the problem
Many businesses employ individuals with varying workplace support needs. Scope’s Let’s Talk report highlighted that nearly half of disabled people are worried about sharing information about their impairment or condition with an employer. So, let me put this into context, from what we know around the percentages and ratios of people experiencing disability and health conditions in the workplace.

If an employer has 1,000 employees, it is likely that around:

● 330 have a long-term health condition

● 160 have a diagnosable mental health condition

● 100 have a musculoskeletal condition

● 50 have a physical health and a mental health condition.

So, in essence, there is a potential for over 50 per cent of the workforce who may require advice, guidance and support around workplace adjustments, with half of these worried about sharing their need for support. The best companies develop a solution which addresses these needs, thereby reaping the rewards.

Your payback
This all sounds great doesn’t it. But, what are the rewards and how do I know it’s working?

There are three distinct benefits that any effective workplace adjustment process can deliver:

1) Improving employee engagement
Many of the world’s most admired companies believe that efforts to engage their employees can create a competitive advantage. There’s strong evidence that engagement drives performance and the way employees are managed is a vital determinant of their engagement.

Also, our experience demonstrates specifically that disabled employees are often less engaged than non-disabled colleagues. Advice, guidance and support for workplace adjustments can act as a contributory factor to that discrepancy.

In a report on retaining and developing disabled employees, almost 3 in 10 disabled employees didn't know where to access advice, despite 83 per cent of employers believing otherwise*. Absence of clear organisational procedures through which workplace adjustments can be established is also a common complaint.

So, there’s a clear opportunity to increase employee engagement, especially from disabled employees, by ensuring that there’s a clear policy and process in place which is communicated effectively and understood.

Case Study

Challenge: A senior manager who was autistic, approached us for an assessment. She hadn’t been able to get help with workplace adjustments, leading to a breakdown in communication with her manager.

Following a practical workplace assessment, our assessor recommended:

● Noise cancelling headphones to help concentration

● Working from home and occasional changes in working hours to avoid anxiety

● Autism strategy coaching

● Access to the company’s employee assistance programme

● A meeting between all parties and a plan put in place for fortnightly meetings, to discuss feedback and disability issues.

Impact: The employee was not only feeling and performing better, but also wanted to help others, by being open about their disability in an effort to assist others to be open and seek support.


2) Improving productivity and reducing sickness absence
A key part of being productive at work is having the right tools to do your job. But, if it takes ages to put adjustments in place, this can cause undue stress and impact on an employee’s productivity.

Enabling staff to easily access support, advice and guidance is an important part of maintaining their productivity. Issues that are not addressed can often escalate into relationship breakdowns, conflict between colleagues, reduction in productivity, increased absence, long-term sickness and even tribunals. A great example of this in action is our work with BT Openreach.

Case Study

Challenge: A team of engineers had gone through a significant period of change in both technology and working practices, causing high levels of sickness, absence and pressure on an already overstretched team.

We worked with occupational health and the engineers to see if any underlying issues could be identified. Many showed traits of dyslexia and learning difficulties – exacerbated by evolving technology in their role.

We put together a three month programme of interactive webinars, personal stories, tools, hints and tips, and also introduced a self-assessment in partnership with Openreach. From the 155 self-assessments completed, two thirds showed traits of dyslexia. We were then able to support with workplace solutions.

Impact: Being open about dyslexia allowed over 150 engineers to come forward for support, leading to an increase in productivity.


3) Attraction and retention
You can only build and retain an inclusive workforce, if you adapt to the changing needs of your employees.

Disabled employees prioritise workplace adjustments as fundamental to their retention*. An effective workplace adjustments programme can demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and help you attract and retain valuable talent.

Case Study

Challenge: An employee had an hearing impairment that had been present for seven years. The gradual deterioration of their hearing led to concerns about their ability to perform in their current role.

A workplace assessment was carried out to identify barriers and solutions. The necessary equipment was purchased, correctly set-up, and the employee received training on how to use it.

Impact: The employee was able to retain his role and it had made ‘positive difference’ to their work life.


When recruiting, it’s important to ensure that onboarding processes are seamless for everyone including disabled employees. But being able to retain staff can be of even greater importance. It is estimated the cost of replacing and recruiting a new employee can be as high as £30,000**. When you compare this to the investment required to put in place a clear, simple workplace adjustment service… the potential return is huge!

I asked a question earlier…do you see challenges, and/or opportunities within your business that may link to how you provide workplace adjustments? If you’re still not sure, or want to know more, we would love to talk to you about how we could help.

Visit our workplace adjustments page, or contact us to start a conversation.

I look forward to speaking to you soon!
 

About Mandy Mcburney
When work and health collide, individuals, their line managers and businesses can struggle. My passion is to provide workplaces with the knowledge and services that assist with the awareness, prevention and support of workplace disability and health issues, helping individuals and businesses be their best.

As Head of workplace disability services at Remploy, our team works with employers and individuals to link professional practice with commercial understanding to provide cost effective and high quality solutions, through training and education, workplace adjustments and mental health/neurodiversity support in the workplace. 

My educational background is in Occupational Psychology, focussing on training and the design and development of disability management programmes as a certified disability management practitioner. 

About Remploy
Remploy deliver a workplace adjustments service across both the public and private sector. We help employers such as BT, BBC and GCHQ to protect and develop their greatest assets, whilst enabling thousands of talented individuals to reach their true potential.

Read more

Part one - Why are workplace adjustments important and why should I care?
Part three - Workplace adjustments… how do I find the right approach for my organisation?

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Source: 
*State of the Nation
**The Oxford Economics

Further reading