HR will need to create a balanced hybrid plan to make sure disabled employees don't miss out

HR has a once in a generation opportunity to redefine the way people work, according to Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum (BDF).

Speaking at the CIPD’s Annual Conference and Exhibition (ACE) in Manchester yesterday (3 November) Lightfoot said: “I do think this is a once in a generation opportunity, but we have to move back mindfully.”

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She encouraged HR to consider how disability has changed since the outbreak of coronavirus when planning what their brand of hybrid will look like. 

Lightfoot pointed out that people with respiratory conditions can now be considered disabled as they will be more vulnerable to illnesses like COVID.

The BDF has also seen a rise in the number of PTSD cases related to the pandemic.

Neil Usher, chief workplace and change strategist of workspace scheduling software provider Gospace, added that people teams must be mindful of how more flexibility will impact the workforce.

He said: “We have to be sensitive to the impact of less structure on working life and be aware of those around us as it’s not a binary situation.

“We now have an N+1 challenge where N is the number of employees, so we have to look at the physical working environment of every single employee as well as the working environment that we provide as an organisation.”

A fear of missing out (FOMO) on office chat/banter will need to be balanced alongside proximity bias, Usher said, and policy and regulation should stay as light as possible while teams figure out their approach.

Lightfoot agreed and said: “Just as policy can kill a dream as fast we can have it, equally policies live or die based on the relationship between an employee and the line manager.”