The spread of the coronavirus has presented a new reality for employees and employers worldwide. Many employers are having to make quick changes and decisions in this time of forced innovation, like using new technologies to support working from home, or updating company policies on sick time. And everyone’s under a lot of stress. So how can you make sure you’re making the best decisions for your company and its employees?
One strategy for good decision-making is to keep disability inclusion top of mind. When a workplace focuses on disability inclusion, it’s not just employees with disabilities who benefit. The same thoughtful approaches that help them will help all employees to do their best work.
Use this disability inclusion checklist to help you make good people-management decisions — even when you’re stressed out, too.
Employer checklist for good decision-making in a time of stress
Recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding
Your business may need to hire people quickly when business needs change. Get ahead of any rush hiring needs by preparing now.
- Post jobs on job boards for people with disabilities, such as AbilityLinks, AAPD, or Getting Hired. And reach out to disability employment service providers to quickly build a strong pool of candidates.
- Understand the accessibility tools and supports you can offer candidates during remote interviews. For example, how could you offer an ASL interpreter to someone who is deaf?
- Give the candidates basic information about what to expect in the interview ahead of time. That way, they can ask for any supports or adjustments they might need and be better prepared.
- If the interview will be remote, ask candidates if they have any particular accessibility needs for the video or phone discussion.
- Prepare your answers to these interview questions the candidates may have. Better yet, give them this information whether they ask for it or not.
- Train and retrain on safety rules, and set up multiple ways of conveying information. For example, you could supplement verbal instructions with an illustrated poster.
Especially during a time of stress, it’s important to stay connected with your team.
- Invite employees to weigh in on changes and decisions. Getting different perspectives is a good way to make sure decisions will work for everyone.
- Check in with employees to assess their needs and concerns. Ask questions like “How are you? Can I help you with anything?”
- Develop a specific procedure for how employees can ask for help if they need it.
- Create a mentorship program. Give every employee a work buddy, and suggest that they regularly check in on each other.
- Consider which supports employees with disabilities relied on before. Make a plan for how those supports can be available when the workplace is at home, or when you’re social distancing in person.
- Watch for behavior changes in employees. If you notice a change in an employee’s performance, check in with them to see if they need any support.
Working from home is likely to be mainstream even after the pandemic ends, so it’s a good time to improve your approach.
- Learn how to make your technology accessible. Consider these work-from-home tools with accessibility features.
- Set up guidelines for using different communication channels like video calls, instant messaging, and email. For example, you could create scripts or videos to model how to communicate.
- Set up transcription for video calls. You can do this with automated transcription tools.
- Offer accessibility supports for all employees. For example, closed captioning on video software can help everyone.
- Keep in mind that disabilities aren’t always visible. Many disabilities, like chronic pain, mental health conditions, and learning and thinking differences, can be invisible. So make sure your policies offer support for everyone.
- Decide what you can offer employees in terms of flexible working hours. Lay out guidance and make sure employees understand their options.
- Review your sick leave policy. Remind employees of what they can expect if they become ill, or if they need to take care of a family member.
- Consider sensory concerns. For example, if the new policy requires employees to wear masks, is it possible to offer sensory-friendly adaptations?
Jamie Studenroth is a disability inclusion coordinator at Understood. She has supported people with disabilities in settings such as schools, camps, nonprofits, and employment. She is a longtime advocate for disability justice in the workplace and beyond.
Reviewed by Ashley Oolman. Founder and inclusion consultant of Allied Folk, Oolman guides partners through evidence-based best practices, product development, and progressive thought leadership. From large corporations to individual allies, she transforms strategic business initiatives and advances equitable community spaces. With more than a decade of leadership experience in advocacy, employment, and workplace culture, she understands how to navigate complex environments and provide actionable insights for growth.