The Covid-19 pandemic not only changed public health, but also how the economy functions. Many people lost their jobs, many people had to learn how to do their jobs during a major health crisis, and many people quit their jobs. But perhaps most transformative was a shift in how jobs that were able to remain active got done. Millions of people were forced by circumstance to work their jobs from home. While there is certainly a potential benefit, namely socialization, to work being conducted in person, there is no doubt that, at least for some workers, especially disabled ones, the mere option to work from home has been a blessing. With no time devoted to travel or commute, something that has held countless disabled people back from gainful employment, the work-from-home model has done wonders for leveling the playing field. It is not only comfortable for many workers but more productive as well. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that workers will be given the option to work from home, even if it can be done easily.
“Even among industries well-suited to online work, there is a range in who is allowed to work remotely or not. On one end of the spectrum are the finance and law sectors, whose workers have been less likely to work from home all along despite a high potential for their work to be done remotely. These industries are going back to the office sooner, and workers will be less likely than in other types of work to be allowed to complete their work remotely thanks to work cultures that prioritize in-person interactions, whether they’re necessary or not.”
It seems as though some companies have readily decided that there’s a strict “office culture” that employees must adhere to even if it has no bearing on the work that’s getting done. This makes very little sense, since these kinds of companies functioned just fine with work being done remotely when no other option was available. The truth is that if something is ever temporarily necessary due to an emergency, it is therefore necessarily always an option in perpetuity. Evidently, companies which have not offered the work from home option view the ego of management more valuable than the quality of work getting done.
Thankfully, some companies have taken the silver lining of the pandemic, introducing the work-from-home model and introducing workers to the option of working from home if they so choose. Both Twitter and Dropbox have instituted this policy. Vox reported a survey by the Boston Consulting Group, showing that 89% of employees want the option to work from home at least some of the time. That sort of sentiment has resulted in the threat that if that option is not presented to employees, they will quit rather than be forced to work in the office.
From Business Insider:
“Out of 1,000 US adults polled in May, 39% said they'd consider quitting if their bosses weren't flexible about them working from home. The Morning Consult survey was first reported by Bloomberg. The survey showed that 49% of the respondents who said they'd consider quitting were millennials and Gen Z — i.e., adults born after 1980.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act entitles disabled employees to reasonable accommodations that do not impose an undue hardship on their employers. Being allowed to work from home seems reasonable by any definition especially considering it improves the ability of workers with disabilities to be more productive and does not cost a company money. In fact, it’s possible that abruptly ordering employees back to work is grounds for a lawsuit. It is certainly not an undue burden to allow employees to work from home, given that, at the height of the pandemic, it would’ve possibly been an undue burden to require people to work in the office.
There are certain potential benefits, such as the aforementioned socialization, and rapport that people develop may working alongside other people, and there is no question that if people are able to come into work once the pandemic is over, they should feel free to. However, there is absolutely no reason that a company which had no choice but to work remotely over the course of the pandemic should impose its authority to force people to come into work every day when they can just as easily, if not more easily, get their work done from home. As people with disabilities saw more opportunities to work remotely, the fact that some struggled to get into “the office” every day prior to the pandemic became a non-issue to some employers. Some may have been able to showcase the full range of their abilities as a productive worker for the first time in their lives, and they should continue to have that freedom. To not allow this flexibility is a clear violation of disability rights.