Remote working isn’t new. Individuals and organisations have been working remotely and flexibly for years – some more than others – but it’s taken a worldwide emergency like Covid-19 to truly bring it to the forefront, forcing the hand of employers to allow their workforce to work remotely. But it isn’t as simple as just having a device that you can log on to from home or a video conferencing platform like Zoom or Teams: it’s about having the right mindset, policies, processes and adjustments in place to enable and support employees to do their jobs whilst supporting their wellbeing.
At Ofcom, we’re no strangers to remote working and, as far as possible, we’ve always taken an agile and flexible approach to how and where colleagues do their jobs. In autumn 2019, we went one step further and transformed our Reasonable Adjustments policy, replacing it with a more inclusive and sustainable Workplace Adjustments policy.
We worked closely with our disability network as we shaped and iterated the policy, while also seeking expert support and advice from the Business Disability Forum (BDF) and an external disability consultant. We expanded the scope of who can request workplace adjustments beyond disability to parents and/or carers, colleagues with cultural or religious observances and colleagues experiencing challenging life events, which more recently has included the impact of Covid-19. We simplified and unified the process across our support teams (ICT, H&S, Facilities, HR), putting in place a single decision making and coordination point for colleagues and their adjustments, making the process as smooth as possible. We also introduced a central budget for the provision of workplace adjustments, moving away from local budgets and local decision making to ensure we have a consistent and coherent approach across Ofcom.
We also gave much clearer guidance on the role and expectations of line managers and colleagues, and made it trust-based and conversation-based rather than asking for medical proof of a condition, for example. We focused on the barriers, not the condition, and also thought about how we could make the process easier for our colleagues. One of the ways we did this was to introduce a workplace adjustments ‘passport’, which made it easier for adjustments to be taken with colleagues when they moved into new teams or roles across Ofcom, rather than needing to start brand new conversations on adjustments each time. We introduced a needs-based assessment route, particularly for colleagues with neurodiverse conditions, to sit alongside traditional occupational health support. We listened, we engaged and we took action to remove barriers and really support our colleagues with our new Workplace Adjustments policy. Admittedly this approach and mindset to adjustments was new, and it took a little while for us to adapt our thinking and truly put the colleague front and centre but, now we are there, we won’t turn back.
With this refreshed, more inclusive policy in place, when Covid-19 turned our world upside down in 2020, it meant that we had strong foundations in place to ensure that every colleague across the organisation had access to the support and adjustments necessary to work remotely, not just for the odd day, but for an indefinite period of time.
We also put some measures in place to ensure the health and wellbeing of our employees during this time:
The fact that we have very good technology across the organisation, with all colleagues having lightweight laptops and Teams functionality, it has meant that our colleagues are empowered to work from anywhere.
In a recent survey, 96% of Ofcom have felt very well supported during the pandemic, a statistic we are proud of. While it remains to be seen what the lasting effects of Covid-19 will be and what the ‘new normal’ will look like, many will agree that the working world will be different in the future. With remote working looking like it’s here to stay, having a comprehensive and inclusive Workplace Adjustments policy and team passionate to solve problems for colleagues is key to creating a sustainable and inclusive workplace for everybody where they can feel supported, healthy and productive.
At Texthelp we want to make sure that every employee has what they need to succeed at work, whether they're working in the office or from home. We hope you've been given some inspiration from hearing how Ofcom have reshaped their workplace adjustments policy. And, if you’d like to find out how we at Texthelp can support you, explore more about us and our support tools.
Kerri-Ann O'Neill, People and Transformation Director, Ofcom
Kerri-Ann is the People and Transformation Director at Ofcom and is the functional leader for human resources and for organisational and digital transformation at the communications regulator. Kerri sits on the main Executive Policy and Management Board of Ofcom.
Kerri aims to create a colleague experience which enables people to work collaboratively to build a purpose driven and agile organisation centred on respect, trust, wellbeing and excellence. Kerri leads Ofcom’s agenda for diversity and inclusion, wellbeing, reward, talent acquisition and management, culture and delivering people centred technological change.
Alpha Abraham, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Ofcom
Alpha is the Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Ofcom and is energised by issues of diversity, inclusion and difference and effecting positive change.
She is responsible for delivering Ofcom’s employer D&I commitments, monitoring and tracking progress and building sustainable change through, and with, others across the whole organisation. She played a central role in bringing about Ofcom’s workplace adjustments policy and process and remains very much involved.
She finds it a real privilege to be able to drive inclusion, diversity and equity every day.