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In addition to regular duties, a work day for employees with disabilities may include medical appointments, breaks, or treatments. Flexible work arrangements can help create space for these necessary tasks while also maintaining productivity. Here’s Galt Foundation’s guide to clearly communicating your need for a flexible schedule to your employer.
For employees with disabilities, a work day isn’t just work. In addition to regular duties, a work day may also include things like appointments, or necessary breaks for medication or treatments.
Flexible work arrangements, which can include remote work or modified work schedules, can allow employees with disabilities to more easily manage any disability-related tasks while still being productive.
Remote work (also known as telework) is one form of flexibility that may be considered a reasonable accommodation. However, even if a more flexible schedule isn't considered a reasonable accommodation at your workplace, it’s still a good idea to ask — especially if your role allows you to work from home, such as roles like administrative assistants or data entry clerks.
For your best chance of getting your flexible schedule request approved, here is Galt’s guide to clearly communicating your needs to your employer.
Highlight the Benefits of a Flexible Work Schedule
While employers may wear various hats, at the end of the day, their job is to ensure the organization’s goals are being met, employees are productive and satisfied, and the bottom line doesn’t become a concern.
Anything they think could disrupt the ecosystem they’ve worked hard to cultivate could be seen as a red flag. For traditionalists, flexible work may be seen as a threat to the status quo.
That’s why it’s important to highlight the benefits of implementing greater flexibility in your work week. While your reasons for seeking this request are personal, of course, it’s a good idea to get some concrete, objective “selling points” ready.
Will you be more productive with greater flexibility? For example, you’ll be away from your desk less because your physiotherapist does house calls and you can get right back to work after treatment. Will greater flexibility align with the organization’s purpose-driven goals? For example, it will fit in with their commitment to being an equal opportunity, socially-conscious employer.
Be Specific With Your Request for Flexible Work Arrangements
While you may know what you mean by “flexibility,” it could mean a variety of things to your employer. You might want a half day on Friday to go to your regular medical appointments, but your employer may think “flexible” means you suddenly want to be part-time.
Or, you might want to work from home three days a week to take a break from the office’s environmental triggers that may be contributing to your migraines, but your employer might think “flexible” means working from home only one day per week.
When framing your request, be specific about what exactly you want and try to prioritize what’s most important. After all, it will be harder to sell your boss on “working from home every day” than “working from home on Tuesdays only.”
It's also a good idea to offer a trial period. It’s harder to say no when the change isn’t permanent, plus, you can prove the benefits that you outlined previously.
For general tips on asking for a reasonable accommodation, check out our Workplace Accommodation Resources for Employees With Disabilities blog.
Make the Request in Person (If Possible)
Did you know: making a request in person is 34 times more effective than asking via email. While the ability for you to make a request in person may not be possible – due to things like COVID-19 restrictions or mobility barriers — it’s a good idea to make your request as close to in person as possible.
A video call is your next best option, and a phone call is your third. Try to avoid email if you can, as it is more impersonal and provides greater opportunity for rejection.
Manage Employer Expectations
As previously mentioned, there’s a chance your employer may have concerns about flexible work, which may include communication/connectivity, productivity, or company culture and morale. You already highlighted the benefits to them, so they should be on board, right? Well, not always.
Like any new change that is introduced, there are going to be questions. By anticipating these questions and potential concerns from your employer, you can better manage expectations.
For example, if they say something like, “If you want to work from home two days per week, then everyone will want to work from home two days a week,” you could respond by saying something like, “By allowing me to work from home two days a week, you are simply fulfilling my request for an accommodation that will help me be more productive. Working from home, I’m not receiving the perks available to in-office team members, but will still be an equal, active member of the team.”
It’s also helpful to remind your employer of your loyalty, reliability, and great work to-date by including quantitative results (i.e. sales made). It may also help to provide a road map of how you see your flexible work schedule implemented, so they can visualize it.
Know What to Say if You Get a “No”
While it may be frustrating to get a “no” from your employer on your flexible schedule request, it doesn’t mean the conversation has to end there. If you’re refused a workplace accommodation, it's important to find out the reasons why. Receiving a concrete reason helps open the door to addressing concerns and continuing the conversation in future.
Let Galt Help You Find Flexible Work
Looking for flexible work? At Galt Foundation, employee flexibility is built in. Galt is one of the world’s largest temporary staffing organizations for individuals with disabilities. With over 20 years of experience, we’ll support you through the employment process and match you with the right job opportunity.