Inclusion: A New Talent Pool At Your Fingertips?

By Rebecca Armstrong

Many people know that inclusion is my passion, and specifically within that disability .. why? Because I am disabled and I support a tribe of wonderful people living with MS and navigating life. In this blog, for employers, I discuss how the recent events and the emerging world of work might just give you access to a pool of talent that you didn’t even know existed.

Disability can be invisible, I know because if you met me you would probably not know that I have a disability. Whether you have an invisible disability or a visible one life can be challenging. I have spoken with literally thousands of people with MS who are in the world of work and the overriding theme is that they want to work, they want to use their talents and they want to develop however sometimes they find themselves in a position where they are not able to.

Fatigue is a hidden challenge for many people with a disability and, unless you have experienced it, it is hard to understand what it is like. What is it not like is being tired and a sleep will not make it better. Fatigue is like someone hit the off switch, for me this is a challenge if I have walked a long distance or traveled quite a bit. Whilst on the whole I consider myself very fortunate that my MS is mild there are days where i need to recharge, I am lucky that as I am self-employed I know how to manage my workload in a way that stops this being an issue.
Why am I sharing this? Well, as I wrote my blog last week on flexible working cultures, I wanted to follow up on that specifically around disability. Within my community I have too many stories to count of times people have requested home-working as a reasonable adjustment but have been refused. Home working for someone with a disability can be the difference between being able to work and not, travel can be exhausting for someone with MS, even parking the car in a car park and having to walk a relatively short distance to work can be a barrier. Plus this extra time on the day can be the thing that tips someone over the fatigue cliff!
As we embrace homeworking and are learning how it can work within the culture of organisations, I urge employers to offer this flexibility. By doing this you are creating opportunities, someone who knows that they can work from home for the majority or even all of the time may be able to continue in a job they love. Giving individuals the option to make a decision about their working patterns on a day by day basis, depending on their energy levels, includes them in the workplace. It also means you get the best from them, they are not battling the hangover from the commute and can focus on their work.
When you have new opportunity, having a flexible approach creates an inclusive recruitment approach which gives you access to a more diverse pool of talent, diversity unquestionably adds value to businesses – there is oodles of research on this very topic.
What I can honestly say is there are some amazingly talented people who I know, where they have had to step away from work, reduce hours or don’t feel about to show up for an opportunity and that in turn means you, as a business, are missing out. I am spending a huge amount of time at the moment working with businesses on their inclusion culture, which is more than a piece of paper with some words on.

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