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Reasonable Accommodations in the Hybrid Workplace

Updated October 2022. First published April 2021.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, employees were less concerned about setting up a home work station since jobs were mainly performed from the office. At these spaces, employers provided supplies such as monitors, chairs, and desks that were conducive to promoting a productive work atmosphere. However, as organizations have shifted to remote work, with some operating in a hybrid model, the home has inevitably become the primary work location for many employees. As a result, employers could face questions from employees who have a disability and may be entitled to request reasonable accommodations that help provide a supportive work environment at home.

According to the Department of Labor, a reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things are usually done during the hiring process. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers who have 15 or more employees are usually obligated to provide reasonable accommodations (unless there is an undue hardship on the employer).

Organizations that are moving towards a hybrid or permanent remote-work model should be prepared to implement policies to help set expectations. Even though each request should be considered on a case-by-case basis, below are some insights to help employers navigate this process:

  • Acknowledge employee’s requests and initiate a conversation to understand how the organization can best assist and help the employees in need.

  • Employers may request documentation of the claimed disability and the functional limitations caused by it from the appropriate health professionals.

  • When multiple options are available, and all of them meet the needs and requirements, the preference of the individual with a disability should be considered first. However, the employer providing the accommodation has the ultimate discretion to choose between effective accommodations according to EEOC.

  • Follow up with the employees to make sure the accommodations are working and make any adjustments if needed.

  • For future requests, it is important to ensure the processes are consistent across the board for equity and compliance purposes.

Now that the pandemic seems to be slowing down, many employees are requesting a permanent remote/hybrid work setting as a reasonable accommodation. Here are additional tips on accommodations that can be provided to your employees in a remote setting:

  • Enable captions in Teams/Zoom or whichever platform you use.

  • Empower your employees to make accommodations that fit their work needs. Consider offering a monetary benefit that will cover programs/software such as remote captioning and interpreting programs, virtual ergonomic assessments, assistive computer software, etc.

  • For those with hearing impairment, consider offering National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Captioning Video and Images.

  • Encourage your team to share their best working hours and let them block out times throughout the day for both breaks and uninterrupted work.

  • Offer an office supply stipend where employees can purchase ergonomic office equipment that suits their needs.

Remember that showing flexibility, empathy, and compassion will help us all navigate this new world together. Does your organization need support in developing a work-from-home policy? Please reach out to your Kiwi Partners HR Advisor or contact Kiwi Partners if you have any questions.

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