This post is part two of a two part discussion. Visit Wednesday’s post to learn about the advantages telework options and flexible scheduling offer businesses and neurodivergent employees.
Wednesday I wrote about the benefits and feasibility of flexible scheduling and telework options for neurodivergent office workers. While it’s great to recognize the advantages of these opportunities, awareness won’t do you much good if you can’t convince your employer to tone down their devotion to old school attendance policies. As noted in the previous post, these types of arrangements aren’t suited to every job, but if you feel some of your duties could be better performed off-site, it may be worth having these conversations.
If you feel safe disclosing your disability, the fastest way to access flexible scheduling and telework may be by talking to your employer. Procedures may already exist for implementing these options regardless of disability status, but if not you can request the changes as reasonable accommodations.
Reasonable accommodations are adjustments to work tasks or environment that allow disabled employees to perform their job duties. As long as the accommodation doesn’t create an unreasonable hardship for the employer, companies are required to provide reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In some cases, you may not even need to provide medical documentation to get these accommodations.
Personally, I’ve had mixed results requesting accommodations. In general, my employers have been supportive, and I was granted a flexible schedule with little resistance. I don’t doubt this decision was helped by the fact that my work was mostly independent from other staff and that my schedule was already irregular due to mandatory attendance at community events. However, both employers from whom I requested telework options denied the request. Their reasoning was that the option had caused logistical issues when offered in the past, and therefore, qualified as undue hardship. Perhaps I could have fought the issue, but frankly, I was just grateful to still have the jobs.
According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) telecommuting and schedule adjustments are common accommodations for a number of disabilities and work situations. If you need help talking to your employer or they refuse your requests, JAN may be able to offers assistance as well as suggestions of other appropriate accommodations.
Educate Local Leaders
If you are not in immediate need of attendance flexibility or would like to make a change in employer attitudes on a wider scale, consider reaching out to local leaders about the positive impact telework and scheduling options can have for employees and employers.
One way to make your case is to ask the chamber of commerce to invite a speaker on the topic, or if you have the credentials, offer to give a presentation yourself. Just be sure to speak their language. You’ll want to highlight the advantages these options give to the business as much or more than the benefits to employees. Other groups that may be open to presentations include local business centers and small business networking groups. To reach an even broader audience, you can pitch a story on the issue to a newspaper or business journal.
While reaching business leaders is important, policymakers often have an even greater influence. Make workforce development an issue for local politicians and inform voters on the value these policies will have on the economy. There may even be local initiatives or committees addressing unemployment or disability issues in your community in which these politicians are already involved. If they’re not informed on this aspect of job accessibility, they won’t know to incorporate it into their efforts.
Support Companies That Offer Flexibility
We can’t forget those businesses already leading by example, either. Other companies will take note when flexible scheduling and telecommuting produce positive results, and the companies offering these options will have an incentive to continue their policies.
Be sure to prioritize buying from companies that support a neurodiverse workforce with options like working from home and adjustable schedules. When possible, express your support in writing. Companies can use testimonials to demonstrate community support for their initiatives.
And of course, you’ll want to seek employment with companies that support these options when your next job hunt comes around. These types of human resource policies are often created to promote recruitment and retention of top talent, so be sure to make it clear their flexibility factored into your decision.
Don’t know how to identify these companies? Check out the employment resources section in our Ultimate Resource Guide for Neurodivergent Adults. You’ll find companies recruiting neurodivergent talent, coalitions of companies who have made a commitment to neurodiversity in the workplace, and agencies that can help neurodivergent workers find and maintain employment.
Consistent attendance may be challenging with a chronic condition, but there are ways we can help ourselves and others moving forward. By advocating for ourselves, educating changemakers, and supporting the businesses that are leading by example, we have the power to positively influence the future workplace policies.
Have you successfully petitioned for flexible scheduling and telework options? Tell us your strategies in the comments!