States are increasingly turning to telework. Every state now has some form of telework policy – whether for emergency situations, for specific agencies, or for all agencies in the state. Yet these policies (and corresponding telework programs) are not necessarily inclusive of people with disabilities. As states revisit or develop public sector telework policies, they have the opportunity to make telework policies and programs more accessible to all employees – including those with disabilities – and to realize the corresponding benefits of inclusive telework.
The State Exchange on Disability and Employment (SEED) initiative has produced a report and corresponding website and webinar to guide states in the development and implementation of inclusive telework policies and programs. These resources include:
- An overview of how federal disability laws pertain to telework;
- A fiscal analysis of state public sector telework;
- Examples of inclusive state telework policies and programs; and
- Tactics for incorporating inclusion into each component of state telework.
Below are some key findings from the SEED team’s research:
- States must ensure that telework is accessible to and usable by its employees with disabilities. This includes ensuring employees with disabilities have an effective and meaningful opportunity to participate in telework programs, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act; developing and updating all components of state telework policies and programs to consider inclusion and accessibility; and employing telework as a reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities, even if a state does not offer a general telework program or otherwise limits eligibility for telework.
- States can focus on inclusion within telework policies, telework agreements, and the management of telework programs. These represent the three components of a state telework program, with inclusion implemented at each level. Telework policies outline the purpose of the telework program and various criteria, processes, and expectations around it. Telework agreements establish the terms and conditions of an individual employee’s telework, as negotiated between the employee and his or her manager. Finally, management of telework programs refers to the methods and strategies that agencies use in implementing and operating telework programs, such as how training and support is provided.
- States should ensure each telework component is clear, flexible, and takes into account universal design. Universal design refers to creating products that are accessible to people with a wide range of abilities, disabilities, and other characteristics. By considering universal design and other key elements, states can ensure telework effectively accommodates a range of individuals, including those with disabilities.
- State agencies and governments can save millions of dollars a year by implementing telework programs. Telework can save the average employer $6,500 per part-time teleworker per year (or $11,000 per half-time teleworker), in the form of lower real estate and operating costs; increased operational continuity during emergencies; greater employee productivity; and lower voluntary turnover. Utah and Tennessee have both saved millions of dollars through state telework programs.
- Inclusive telework can enhance organizational performance and produce additional cost savings. Diverse workplaces – including those that embrace disability employment and inclusion – have better operational and fiscal outcomes than their peers, and inclusive telework can facilitate the hiring and retention of a range of employees. It also allows a greater number of employees to participate in telework, thereby enhancing associated cost savings.
If you are interested in learning more about how your state can develop and implement inclusive telework, or if you would like to receive individualized technical assistance from the SEED team, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.