ADVANCED RESEARCH IN the Psychology of Motivation is telling us that autonomy, a sense of gratitude, and passion lead us to be more motivated. The practice of setting employees up to work remotely has proven to be more cost-effective than bringing employees into the office. The dawning of the great information age allows us to do any computer-based job from anywhere and at any time. We’ve utilized modern day advancements to revolutionize almost every aspect of business and to serve clients and customers from all over the world all the while becoming more profitable. All these advancements and yet we’ve failed to revolutionize how we accommodate people living with disabilities and those who care for them.
Two federal acts that establish job protection for disabled workers and employees who have family members in need of their care were established in the early nineties. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was established in 1993 and only applies to employees and employers who meet the eligibility criteria. The Americans with Disabilities Act was established in 1990 and for the most part none of the basic fundamentals of FMLA or ADA have changed since they were established and few states have taken an initiative to modernize their leave laws to ensure things such as Short Term Disability and Paid Family Leave benefits. With most countries in Europe and Canada having much more extensive family leave, disability, and maternity leave laws, it is clear that the United States is behind the rest of the first world.
With less need to micromanage, and fewer time and location restraints, we can free up a much larger portion of the workforce for people living with disabilities and people who need to care for family members. Companies such as Google and Apple are backing the “less restraints equals more productivity” philosophy in practice. These practices are even backed by major companies locally operating here in the Columbus Metro Area. Medco and Aetna, for instance, have experienced success in setting up a good percentage of their employees to work almost exclusively from their homes.
I’ve worked for third party leave administrators for the better part of the last decade. There is no denying the stigma placed on employees who miss work due to a disabling condition or who need to care for a disabled family member – many of us have probably witnessed it in our workplaces. The truth is, most disabled employees don’t enjoy being away from work. In fact, not working over a period of time actually leads to frustration, a loss of a sense of purpose, and a lost sense of control over the wellbeing of one’s family. It has been in my experience that the vast majority of people who are disabled or have family members in need of their care don’t want to miss work; they simply want and need the capacity to be able to work around their conditions and their schedules to care for their family members.
Rather than shaming and systematically targeting disabled employees and employees who have to care for their family members, let’s be true leaders and partner with employees to help them work full time and live productive lives. Let’s use our readily available and inexpensive technology to free up as much of the workforce we possibly can to enable the success of almost anyone. The couple grand spent upfront to accommodate employees to work from home will rapidly pay off as it will enable otherwise disabled employees and employees caring for disabled family members to do what they can, when they can and miss less work.