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Workplace Flexibility

Learn about the role of workplace flexibility in retention of people with disabilities.  

Today more than ever, employers are thinking outside the proverbial box to meet the diverse needs of individual employees—and realizing that doing so can be a key strategy for retraining talented workers, including those who may develop disabilities, whether due to injury, illness or the natural aging process. 

One increasingly popular strategy on this front is workplace flexibility. Workplace flexibility takes many forms. For example, for a new parent, it might mean a part-time work schedule. For a person with a mobility disability, it might mean telecommuting, occasionally or on a full-time basis, to assist with transportation challenges. For a person with a chronic illness or physical disability, it might mean an adapted schedule to manage medical or physical therapy appointments or medication administration. Regardless of reason, research shows that strategies such as telework and flextime contribute greatly to increased productivity—for all employees, including employees with disabilities.

While workplace flexibility is often associated with when and where employees work, it also covers flexibility of task. That can mean redefining or customizing a job description to capitalize on the employee's strengths so that they can best assist you in addressing your business needs. Again, this is a practice that can benefit all employees. 

A number of resources can assist employers in understanding the many facets of workplace flexibility and how to implement effective flexible employment arrangements. For instance, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has a webpage about flexible work arrangements. Furthermore, the Families and Work Institute’s “One Kind Word: Flexibility in the Time of COVID” (PDF) addresses work/life balance issues during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery. To learn about employer experiences utilizing remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, read “COVID-19 and Remote Work: Findings from a Focus Group of NILG Members.” The summary report includes challenges, solutions and future considerations.

To learn more about adopting an integrated telework policy for employees with and without disabilities, read EARN’s “Telework Policy Brief.” For more information about the future of remote work and considerations for people with disabilities, read EARN’s practice brief, “Leveraging the Shift to Remote Work to Increase Employment of People with Disabilities.” The policy brief “Exploring the Possibilities: Disability-Inclusive Hybrid Work Models” offers strategies for developing and implementing hybrid work models that are equitable and accessible for all employees, including people with disabilities. The Office of Personnel Management also offers a guide to telework and remote work in the Federal Government (PDF).