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Workplace Initiative Weekly News Roundup: February 3, 2020

By Workplace Initiative
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Here are some highlights from this week’s news about disability inclusion (DI) in the workforce—and how you can use this information to make your company the best it can be.

What’s reported: This Science magazine article looks at ways to make research labs more accessible for employees with disabilities. But its disability inclusion tips can be helpful to any organization. 

For instance, when astronomer and data scientist Jesse Shanahan started a new job, her supervisor didn’t ask her to disclose her disability. Instead, he asked, “What do you need to do your best work?” It showed her the organization wanted to help her be successful. “It instantaneously made me feel comfortable asking for things,” she says.

The article mentions other strategies to create an inclusive environment, such as making accommodations available for all employees. “This could include offers of telecommuting and flexible work schedules,” says Shanahan.

What you can do: Ask job candidates and employees “What do you need to be successful?” This is an opportunity to learn what they require to do their best work. 

And remove as many obstacles as possible without requiring potential hires and employees to disclose a disability. For example, when arranging a job interview, mention the location of accessible entrances and bathrooms. 

What’s reported: Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) released a first-of-its-kind workplace mental health playbook for business leaders. It pairs statistics with research-backed recommendations. 

Among the findings: 20 percent of U.S. employees and 50 percent of millennials have voluntarily left roles for mental health reasons. The playbook also reports that workplace cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) programs can see a return of almost $2 for every dollar invested.

What you can do: Apply here to get the full CAMH playbook. It’s full of actionable advice, such as offering time-flexible working arrangements. 

Why is flextime so important? The playbook explains: “An imbalance between work and family life is a strong risk factor for mental illness—it’s been shown to be more detrimental to mental health than work-related stress. Being able to reconcile work duties with outside-of-work duties, such as family obligations, leads to fewer absences from work.” 

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What’s reported: This Forbes article reminds companies that belonging is an important word to keep in mind as they work on diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

“Designing a culture where employees feel like they belong ultimately makes your organization more attractive to the best talent, helps meet business goals, and creates positive employee experiences,” writes Lynee Luque, VP and head of people at workplace technology company Envoy, in the article. 

Ways to help employees feel a sense of belonging:

  • Make sure your work space complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), such as being accessible by wheelchair.
  • Support different working styles and preferences by creating “microclimates.” This could include open spaces for collaborating and quiet spaces for solitary thinking.
  • Launch employee resource groups (ERGs) for colleagues to build relationships that deepen their engagement at work. An ERG for employees with disabilities is one example.

What you can do: To put diversity, equity, and belonging into practice, start by looking at your company’s hiring processes: 

What’s reported: EU-Startups interviews Liz Johnson, a three-time Paralympic swimming medalist and co-founder of The Ability People (TAP). The consulting firm is staffed entirely by people with disabilities. And TAP works with global brands to “redefine the issue of disability” in their workforce.

“We run sessions to normalize difference and get people thinking differently about what disability means and entails,” the U.K.-based Johnson tells EU-Startups. “Until we get away from ‘othering’ disabled people and underestimating their capabilities, we will not have a level playing field.”

What you can do: Hire an inclusion advisor who has a disability, or attend training sessions taught by experts in disability inclusion. It’s essential to create a safe space where executives can, as Johnson puts it, “ask the questions they’ve always been too worried to ask disabled candidates.”

And learn more about the myths and misconceptions about hiring people with disabilities.