A research study led by Coventry University highlights the need for an overarching government policy on remote working to help level the playing field for neurodiverse and disabled people.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of people to work from home, with many companies including Vodafone embracing hybrid working and work-from-anywhere policies. However, research from Coventry University reveals that while there are clear advantages for some people, remote working poses new problems for people with additional needs.
Since 2018, Vodafone has partnered with Coventry University to further understand the needs of people with neurodivergent conditions with research taking place in the UK , Ireland, Czech Republic and Turkey.
The research project, Remote4All, was launched by Dr Christine Grant, a researcher in the Centre for Healthcare Research at Coventry University and was the first to explore the lived experiences of working remotely.
It found advantages and disadvantages can depend on an individual’s needs and specific disability and/ or neurodiversity. Six themes emerged including; choice of communications, accessibility and technology use, managing work-life balance, social isolation, and line manager support.
Dr Grant said: “Our research has revealed that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Working regularly from home may help some neurodivergent individuals by limiting social interactions and providing a greater control on their environment but may trigger serious difficulties with work-life balance for others.
Online meetings might be particularly effective for employees with physical disabilities but become immensely challenging for people with sensory impairments or neurodiversity.”
He adds, “The research found that managers play a key role in promoting inclusiveness and helping to identify appropriate support, so training and guidance for line managers should be a key priority.
The employees we spoke to about their lived experiences agreed on the importance of understanding and listening to the individual needs and the importance of line managers understanding of accessibility and optimisation for all.
The research also spotlighted the need to rethink the recruitment and career development processes for people with disabilities or neurodiversity to optimise the access and use of remote working practices.”
Carl Clarke, Director of Talent, Learning, Leadership & Skills at Vodafone said: “Research like this is really important as it allows us to hear from employees on how we can make our working environment accessible for all. We are thrilled to see that the planned launch of our new ‘Inclusion Standards’ aligns to the research findings, and that we are promoting inclusion and diversity for all our employees in the right way. We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration with Coventry University so we can continue to learn and support all of our employees.”
The collaborators are planning on producing an employee and employer toolkit focussing on the outputs from this study and plan to continue their research in this area.
Dr Grant worked with Vodafone and NHS Employers, Coventry City Council, Leonard Cheshire, Dyslexia Box, SEND and other disability charities on the project.
It was supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, through the Digital Futures at Work Research Centre's Innovation Fund.
You can discover more about the project or watch the animation;
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