Disability, Neurodiversity, and Remote E-working: Promoting the creation of an inclusive workplace (Remote for All)
As part of the Digital Futures at Work Research Centre (Digit), this work was supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/S012532/1], which is gratefully acknowledged.
Value to Coventry University
Dr Christine Grant, Coventry University (Principal Investigator)
Dr Carlo Tramontano, Coventry University
Dr Maria Charalampous, University of Limassol, Cyprus
This project aimed to fill a gap in understanding the impact of remote e-working for disabled and neurodivergent workers (DNW)*. This population of workers might be overlooked by employers, therefore becoming invisible and unable to work in a way that best supports their needs and capabilities. In-depth interviews were conducted, within both private and public sectors, with: 1) DNW, to explore their lived experience as remote e-workers; 2) employers, to identify challenges and resources for the creation of inclusive work environments; 3) key stakeholders, to advise on the main recommendations and guidelines for the future. This multi-informant approach will provide a comprehensive understanding of the experiences of remote e-working for DNW, while also offering insightful information for the design of policies and practices for inclusive work environments. A toolkit will be developed to support individuals, organisations and practitioners that can feed into guidance to influence wider societal and government policy.
Remote4All addresses four main research questions.
RQ1: What is the current state of academic knowledge about remote working and disabled and neurodivergent workers (DNW)?
RQ2: What are the advantages and disadvantages of remote working for DNW across public and private sectors?
RQ3: What are employers doing to facilitate inclusivity and visibility for DNW, who are remote working?
RQ4: What are the emerging issues for DNW in public and private sector settings, to remote working, and what are the key next steps to increasing inclusivity and visibility?
A rapid literature review (RQ1) highlighted a substantial gap in the academic knowledge on disabled and neurodivergent workers' (DNW) experience of remote e-working. Further, the limited research is mostly focused on physical disabilities, overlooking other disabilities and neurodiversity. While remote e-working may indeed offer great opportunities to include DNW, a full understanding of what works best for this population of workers still need to be addressed.
A set of semi-structured interviews with 24 employees DNW (RQ2), 5 employers from private and public sector (RQ3), and 8 stakeholders (RQ4) provided R4All with very rich, in-depth, and extended data. The key findings highlighted that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and is essential to listen and understand the individual needs to make remote working accessible and optimal for everyone. The role of Line Managers was identified as pivotal to promote inclusiveness, and therefore need to be trained effectively. Understanding and agreeing on what reasonable adjustments are can be complex and there is need for an overarching policy on remote working, which has to be properly and intrinsically inclusive for all. Optimising access and use of remote working practices as well as increasing accessibility and usability of technology should be a priority.
Remote working has increased rapidly and the pandemic proliferated the number of workers using this style of working. Understanding the experience of disabled and neurodivergent remote workers was considered to be a gap in the research and in need of exploration. The current challenges found indicate that much needs to be done to influence organisations, and line managers in particular to reap the benefits of remote working for this group but also to apply successful interventions (as found in this study) to ameliorate any negative effects. The overarching challenge will be to influence government bodies, private, public and voluntary sectors to provide specific guidance for this group of workers.
*This is a UK based term, other terms are used in different contexts and internationally.
Read the open access article.