Learn how workplace flexibility helps create an inclusive, accessible, and equitable workplace culture.
Workplace flexibility has become increasingly common in recent years. This has been particularly true since the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations offer workers choices on how, when, and where to work. These practices support and attract many workers with disabilities. As organizations decide whether to make flexible workplace practices permanent, it is important to make sure that these practices are accessible, sustainable, and equitable.
This page and the linked resources will help you understand:
- Who benefits from a flexible workplace
- Types of workplace flexibility
- Considerations for employers when making workplaces flexible
Workplace flexibility benefits people with and without disabilities. However, many people with disabilities have found flexible workplaces particularly beneficial.
Benefits include the ability to:
- Accommodate transportation needs
- Protect oneself from illness or pathogens
- Take breaks as needed, including time to take part in wellness activities
- Control one’s workspace and work pace to increase productivity and well-being
- Seek work in a larger geographic area due to remote work opportunities
These flexibilities also benefit workers without disabilities. For example, flexible schedules help parents and caregivers balance work and care needs.
Types of Workplace Flexibility
Workplace flexibility is not a "one-size-fits-all" matter. Different benefits require different practices that address the how, where, and when work gets done.
Flexibility can be in time, place, or manner of work:
- Time, or when work gets done. Your workplace can offer flexible work schedules, time blocks for arrival and departure, or options to redistribute work hours throughout the day or week. You can learn more in the “Schedules and Flexibility” section of this page.
- Place, or where work gets done. Flexible workplaces may allow some or all workers to work remotely some or all of the time. Hybrid workplaces allow for a mix of in-person and remote work; workers can have different patterns depending on their needs. You can learn more from EARN’s brief on disability-inclusive hybrid work models.
- Manner, or how work gets done. A flexible workplace may allow workers to use a different process to achieve a task or allow a job to be tailored to a person’s strengths. This may mean, for example, that workers use new technologies to effectively complete their work.
Employees will request different types of flexibilities in the time, place, and manner of their work. For example, an employee who teleworks may not need a schedule change, but alternate processes instead. Similarly, a flexible schedule may make in-person work more accessible and less burdensome for some workers.
Considerations for Employers
Be sure all employees are made aware of any updates to your organization’s policies, including workplace flexibility. If your employees are aware of the most current options available to them, such as remote work, flexible hours, and job sharing, then they are more likely to use those that increase their productivity. There are several areas highlighted below where employers can consider workplace flexibility.
Several topics intersect in specific ways with workplace flexibility. Learn more from these EARN issue briefs: