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How to Make Workplace Adjustments with Minimal Disruption

Defining what are reasonable ‘workplace adjustments’ and tips for implementing them effectively for a productive workplace with an inclusive and supportive culture. Without disrupting business operations, this article focuses on accommodating employees’ diverse needs with necessary changes to their working day, from offering flexible-working patterns, adapting equipment, and training managers to offer the right help.

Being able to adapt and accommodate the diverse needs of your employees is the key for long-term business success. Workplace adjustments play a pivotal role in creating an inclusive, productive, and healthy environment so it’s important to recognise what they are and how to implement changes without impacting your company or colleagues.

From a business perspective, it’s beneficial to proactively support any employee who might be struggling to keep on top of their job. Thankfully, the Equality Act 2010 made it a legal requirement for employers to make adjustments for employees with disabilities or those unable to work for other reasons. 

Without doubt, it is immeasurably valuable for businesses to support all staff, and make necessary and timely changes that will enable them to carry out varying tasks demanded by their roles. This may mean financially helping staff to manage work commitments alongside caring responsibilities with paid leave. However, employees may also suffer from ill health, have personal crises, or need to switch hours due to the stress of looking after older and infirm relatives. 

This article will define workplace adjustments, their importance in today’s workplace, and how to implement changes effectively without disrupting business operations.

What is a Workplace Adjustment?

Workplace adjustments are also known as an ‘inclusion passport’ or a ‘reasonable adjustment passport’. These personal documents formally change the working environment, duties, or processes of employees with disabilities or multiple health conditions to help them perform their jobs effectively and safely. 

However, progressive organisations are recognising the value of extending this concept to all employees, fostering a culture of inclusivity and support. For instance, with one in six people experiencing a mental health condition, the UK Department of Health encourages employers to make workplace adjustments, to support employees with mental and physical health issues or identify other reasons that might be disrupting their normal working routine.

While an Access to Work assessment at a business can help identify the best course of action to take, adjustments can range from simple tweaks in someone’s flexibility or scheduled hours of work to more complex changes within the office or to remote workstations, technology, and physical workspaces, such as:

  • Invest in adapted equipment, such as chairs or keyboards
  • Use voice recognition software
  • Consider lowering worktops or having standing desks
  • Opt for natural light bulbs and move employees to different areas as required 
  • Modify entrances and improve access routes
  • Install adaptive software and hardware solutions to accommodate a range of needs
  • Explore remote-working options and flexible scheduling tools

Acknowledging Personal Circumstances

Adapting employees’ working patterns can help to reduce days off from sickness absence and encourage productivity. Employers and employees need to communicate openly because the needs of all employees are different. At times, only a few adjustments can enable a member of staff to continue doing their job. This is ultimately less costly compared to recruiting and training new employees.

Ensure that employees and managers are equipped to handle the changes by offering comprehensive training on new equipment or processes. Provide ongoing support and schedule regular check-ins during the adjustment period to address any issues promptly. Create resources such as user guides and FAQs to help employees adapt to changes, promoting self-sufficiency and reducing reliance on constant support.

Supporting Employees with the Right Tools

Making appropriate workplace adjustments and supporting employees with the right tools and environment they need to work is mutually beneficial for a business to operate efficiently. Meanwhile, demonstrating a commitment to employees’ needs can significantly boost job satisfaction and loyalty, leading to improved employee retention. 

Having a reputation for being an inclusive employer means being open and aware of all your people’s personal circumstances on a day-to-day basis. To create a neuroinclusive environment, you need a rounded understanding of the challenges and conditions that employees might face. Having this awareness allows you to make the right adjustments whether it’s for dyslexic employees or others in need of workplace support. 

Promoting a Culture of Inclusivity

Accommodating the needs of each individual and implementing appropriate workplace adjustments during and after the recruitment stages fosters a supportive culture of empathy and mutual respect, contributing to a positive company culture overall.

You can introduce the principles of workplace changes into your company culture by celebrating diversity and inclusion in all your company communications. Share success stories of effective workplace changes, with permission, to inspire others and demonstrate the positive impact of these changes. Include discussions about workplace adjustments in meetings and company-wide events to normalise the concept and encourage ongoing dialogue. 

Implementing Workplace Adjustments 

From the start, if you have recognised the need to formalise a workplace adjustment plan, encourage an open dialogue between employees and managers about workplace needs. Having this well-defined policy in place minimises confusion and ensures consistency in handling requests. By creating a safe space, your employees will feel comfortable discussing their requirements without fear of judgement or repercussions. 

Your workplace adjustment policy should clearly outline the process by defining and explaining the request and assessment process. It should outline the roles and responsibilities of HR, managers, and employees, emphasising confidentiality and non-discrimination throughout the process.

If need be, invest in training to have sensitive conversations about workplace adjustments for a supportive culture. Provide multiple channels for employees to request adjustments, such as through your HR department, line managers, or another dedicated colleague. It’s important to check in with employees regularly in case their circumstances change, and remind them about the company’s ongoing support and how to access it.

Evaluating Solutions with a Timeframe 

Although there is no statutory timescale for when or how long an adjustment should be put in place when a request is made, it’s best practice to respond promptly. Consider both the employee’s needs and the potential impact on the business when evaluating options and making changes in a business. While you’ll want to prioritise the health and respect the role of your employee, you’ll also want to minimise any disruption. 

Conduct a comprehensive assessment to understand the employee’s needs first and then identify the most appropriate solutions. With this in mind, make workplace adjustments in incremental stages, so start with changes that can be introduced slowly. This demonstrates instantaneous support but allows you to build on the first changes, progress any new procedures and develop them over time. Put in complex changes during quieter periods or at a time when business is slower to reduce impact on day-to-day operations. Involve occupational health professionals when necessary to ensure a holistic approach.

Implementing workplace adjustments with minimal disruption requires planning, clear communication, and a commitment to inclusivity. By following the strategies outlined in this article, HR directors and business leaders can create a more accessible, productive, and healthy working environment and culture. 

Workplace adjustments are not just about compliance, they’re an investment in your staff and your business long-term success. However, the process of making workplace adjustments is ongoing. Stay flexible, be open to feedback, and continually seek ways to improve your approach. 

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