Some of the often-hidden experiences in many offices even before the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a widespread shift to remote work have been the experiences of hearing and visually impaired employees. With a broad shift to remote work, these employees are often finding it more difficult than before to perform their basic job duties.
It’s time companies take a look at how they are accommodating and creating opportunities for remote visually and hearing-impaired employees, according to Kevin Rizer, an authority on remote work and author of Always Wear Pants: And 99 Other Tips for Surviving and Thriving While You Work from Home. Rizer knows what he’s talking about. He himself suffers from hearing loss of about 50%.
Rizer encourages employers to be upfront with employees who have hearing or visual impairments to identify ways they could be best accommodated. This is particularly true during the pandemic. Don’t assume that because they’re at home, they’re not facing barriers.
“Don’t be afraid to ask the hearing or visually impaired community what they need to successfully work remotely and make your company a better workplace,” urges Rizer.
Suggestions for Accommodations
Rizer suggests multiple general tips to consider when making the workplace more accommodating to the visually and hearing-impaired. These include:
- Looking at company policies to see how the company could better accommodate visually and hearing-impaired staff members;
- Introducing technology with closed captioning or screen reading; and
- Asking employees directly for their insights on what the company could do to create a better workplace.
These and other practices can be relatively simple and cost-effective. Ensuring that visually and hearing-impaired workers have the tools and environment they need can help maintain high levels of productivity in a remote setting and generate the high levels of engagement that can contribute to employee morale and retention.
The widespread shift to remote work triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic means it’s not only more difficult to monitor employee productivity but also more difficult to ensure employees are getting the support they need. For this reason, employers should be particularly attuned to the needs of the visually and hearing-impaired.