Creating a More Inclusive Work Culture: Questioning Immediacy
Let’s talk immediacy in the workplace. When you don’t get an immediate response to an email, a meeting needs to be rescheduled, or a deadline extension needs to be granted, how does that make you feel as an employer and/or colleague? Frustrated? Irritated? Annoyed? Or do you acknowledge that some employees require different timelines? Your reaction could say a lot about the culture being fostered in your workplace.
With a rise in workplace diversity, employers are becoming increasingly responsive to the accommodations required of employees with disabilities. This pattern is overall reflective of a slow but steady movement to creating increasingly diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces. However as of the most recent StatsCan review, 21% of employees with disabilities are still not having any of their needs for workplace accommodations met. With rising trends demonstrating increasing expectations that employees be responsive on evenings and weekends, and declining work-life balance reporting, there is an inherent quandary here for employees with disabilities.
While some workplaces may look to the usual workplace modification to accommodate disabilities (special chairs, ergonomic settings, specialized software), in many ways these are the minimum standard of an inclusive workplace. Culture also plays a significant role in how included and supported employees with disabilities feel, and overall employee morale.
In terms of immediacy, not all employees have the privilege of being sighted, able-bodied, or neurotypical. Processing approaches and timing may differ between employees. Those with chronic pain for instance, may only have a few hours each day to be “productive” before having to address medical or fatigue needs, and these hours may not align with the traditional 9-5 timeline. An employee with a learning or visual disability may require additional time to convert documents to “easy to read” versions or use adaptive software, adding additional tasks in their timeline that their able-bodied colleagues do not need to consider. An employee with reduced mobility may require additional time to move from their workstation to meeting rooms or printers, or need breaks to take medication or monitor blood sugar, presenting additional obstacles to meeting deadlines.
Employees with disabilities are important to the workforce, and their differing timelines or approaches to work prioritization should be recognized outside of the modern workplace’s unspoken requirement of immediacy. In fact, accommodations such as modified hours, working from home, and specialized work timelines can make a significant difference in their productivity and morale, and meet employers’ required duty to accommodate. And as we know, a more inclusive and responsive workplace presents significant benefits for workplace engagement, employee retention rates, innovation, and overall employee morale.
Time and labour are valuable resources, and not sending an immediate response to a non-urgent email, or needing meetings rescheduled, might be a strategy that an employee with a disability is using to maximize their time and energy. Next time an employee or colleague needs a time accommodation, reflecting on the modern workplace culture’s requirement of immediacy and this impact on diverse employees – as well as a resulting offer of accommodation – can help make your workplace more inclusive, productive, and equitable.