23% of working age adults in the UK are disabled. The public sector is one of the largest employers in the UK with over 481,000 employees. With almost half using hybrid work patterns, it’s become even more pressing for the public sector organisations to create an accessible hybrid workplace.
Out of those who declared their disability status, 14% of civil servants are disabled as of 2022 – a 4% increase since 2010.
A Civil Service with the “widest range of talent, skills and experience” is a key tenet of the UK government’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy. It follows that the workplace should be the visual embodiment of the public sector’s diverse and inclusive workforce, regardless of whenever employees choose to come in.
Even if the most disabled employees feel they’re more productive working from home, opportunities for in-person connection, collaboration and relationship building should still be accessible to them.
An inaccessible public sector workplace damages productivity, cuts back on knowledge sharing in the workplace and gives public sector organisations a smaller talent pool to recruit from.
All employees should have the support they need to perform their roles to the best of their ability. The right approach to workplace accessibility ensures the public sector workforce is reflective of the diverse population it serves.
Here are three steps to creating an accessible hybrid workplace for UK public sector organisations.
Use a consultative approach
A consultative approach to workplace accessibility engages disabled employees in identifying the obstacles that prevent them from coming into the office and having a good workplace experience.
Employees experiencing less visible disabilities may have needs that haven’t been considered or implemented. Accessibility initiatives that don’t consult with all employees will never be fully inclusive.
Engaging with employees also makes sure public sector workplace leaders can make data-driven decisions.
Employee surveys are an obvious place to start, alongside focus groups and one-on-one consultations.
The goal here should be to understand:
- What’s preventing employees from accessing the office – whether that’s lack of space, assistive technology, equipment or anything else
- The reasons they’d like to come in, and
- The changes required to create the ideal working environment
Understanding what employees want out of their workplace experience will help to shape changes to office layout, design and functionality. An example could be ensuring that disabled employees can book meeting rooms and breakout spaces with the right functionalities in advance.
A consultative approach will likely uncover existing challenges faced by disabled employees in the office.
For example, lack of individual quiet spaces could be a trigger of anxiety for employees with environmental sensitivities, or employees may be feeling pressure from a manager to come into the office more regularly when they feel they’d be more productive and comfortable with more days of remote work.
Catalogue office spaces and functionalities
Consulting with employees is critical for an accessible hybrid workplace. The next step is to make sure the right types of spaces exist, and if not, to make the right changes.
Whether you experience a disability or not, one of the biggest upsides of remote work is control of your work environment.
Lack of control over the work environment is a drawback of office work for any employee. But for many disabled employees, an insufficient work environment could mean an unproductive day in the office or even not being able to work at all.
Ramps, wide hallways and wide desks are no-brainers in an accessible hybrid workplace. But less obvious functionalities, like quiet spaces and dimmer lighting – can be imperative for employees with cognitive disabilities who want to come into the office.
It also follows that the first step in creating an accessible hybrid workplace is to ensure the individual spaces can support the needs and preferences of disabled employees.
Up-to-date floor plans and employee feedback are both good places to start when cataloguing workplace accessibility features.
Implement accessible desk and meeting room booking software
After understanding what disabled employees need to make coming into the office worth their time and making sure the right spaces and functionalities exist to serve them, the next step to creating an accessible hybrid workplace is to make sure employees can access and reserve the spaces they need.
Even if the right types of spaces exist, there’s no guarantee the employees who need them most can access them – and have the reassurance they can access them before coming into the office.
That’s where resource booking software can bolster the accessibility of a hybrid workplace in two key ways:
- Making desk, meeting room and workplace booking accessible to employees with disabilities by integrating with assistive technologies (e.g. screen readers), keyboard-only navigation and using a web browser with extra magnification instead of an app
- Connecting employees with the right spaces that have the adjustments and modifications for a comfortable and productive working experience. These are the adjustments and modifications identified during the cataloguing of existing office space – for example, booking a wider workstation in a quiet area.
Pro-tip: If employees are coming in to meet with their teams, a useful functionality for resource booking software would be alerting employees when their coworkers have booked desks or meeting rooms
Software is constantly evolving towards a better, easier user experience with more functionality, and the accessibility of that software should be no different. Accessibility isn’t a tick box exercise – it’s an iterative process that should change along with employee needs and preferences.
Smartway2’s intelligent workplace scheduling software helps public sector organisations create hybrid workplaces that give everyone an outstanding experience. We’re committed to continuously iterating our software to make it as accessible as possible to employees experiencing disabilities, for a more engaged and inclusive workplace.