In order to attract the best work force it is essential that your office is set up to cater for employees of all physical abilities. Although this may sound obvious, it is surprising just how few workplaces would be able to facilitate an employee with a disability if they were to start work with immediate effect.
To highlight this point, CMD ran a survey in partnership with Shaw Trust, the national charity responsible for helping disabled employees find employment, to determine the obstacles a disabled employee encounters in ‘every day’ offices across the UK.
Here’s what the survey revealed:
From these results, we can see that the highlighted obstacles fall into three distinct categories: Un-adjustable Furniture and Fittings’, ‘Trip Hazards’ and ‘Inaccessibility’.
The good news is, the changes that need to be made to rectify these issues are easily addressed. Here’s how:
Integrating adjustable fixtures and furnishings
Height adjustable desks are becoming increasingly popular in offices due to increased awareness about ergonomics and how poor seating positions can result in strains and injuries for employees of all physical abilities. Likewise, adjustable monitor arms allow computer screens to be positioned at the perfect angle to minimise neck strain and suit employees of different heights.
Being able to raise the desk and monitor height with a gentle touch or a simple press of a button would make a huge difference to the comfort of a disabled employee, and would go a long way towards creating an inclusive environment.
The benefits, however, aren’t exclusive to those with restricted movement, as all employees would experience a more comfortable working position, along with a subsequent reduction of the aches and pains that come from poor ergonomics. From a management point of view, the investment could well be balanced with the reduction of employees taking time off sick for back and neck-related issues, and the subsequent sick pay and cover.
Adjustable workspaces also enable employees to hot desk, creating a more flexible and ultimately happier work environment.
Addressing trip hazards
Whilst trip hazards aren’t solely a concern for disabled employees, the consequence of someone on crutches taking a tumble can be extremely serious. Ensuring that flooring is level, replacing worn or uneven tiles and removing or repairing ragged carpet is a basic measure that can prevent potential injury for all employees.
Trailing cables present a serious danger: not only can they be tripped over or caught on a wheelchair, there is also the danger that the device connected to the cable could be dragged along with it, potentially landing on someone or creating an electrical hazard.
Cable tidies and spines are the perfect way to ensure that wires are out of harm’s way and can easily be attached beneath desks, which has the additional benefit of creating a tidier, more aesthetically appealing work space.
Accessing plug sockets in awkward places can be annoying at best, but downright impossible if you are experiencing restricted movement. It is worth noting here that restricted movement isn’t necessarily limited to those registered as being disabled. At any point, employees may suffer from breaks or strains, experience back problems or even find certain movements difficult in the later stages of pregnancy.
Inaccessible plug sockets can simply be addressed by investing in desk top power modules. This is the perfect solution for quick and easy connectivity, as laptops, tablets and mobile phones can instantly be plugged into sockets or USB ports without having to reach or bend to find an available socket.
Accessibility as a whole was raised as a concern within the survey. By law, certain measures need to be put into place to ensure that the needs of disabled employees are catered for, but these measures often only extend to designated parking, toilet facilities and wheelchair-friendly door widths.
In many cases, however, it isn’t difficult to ensure that even the most basic office is suitable for all employees. Obstacles can be identified simply by looking around an office from the perspective of a disabled employee and pinpointing areas that could be problematic. It is highly likely that small adjustments, along with the above mentioned furniture and fittings, will make a huge difference to the overall accessibility of the workplace, ultimately creating an all-inclusive environment.