When Telecommuting is More Than a Perk

By , March 20, 2013

When Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, made the decision to end telecommuting, she ignited a debate about the value of telecommuting as an employee perk. Mayer told her employees she believed that face time would encourage creativity and produce more fruitful work. Perhaps she’s also looking to end what’s probably a common practice among telecommuters—taking personal time, or not being held accountable on a daily basis.

For people with disabilities telecommuting is more than a perk. In some cases it’s the only way he or she can hold onto a full time job. This is mostly true because the worker is unable to drive to a job site and accessible transportation is highly unreliable and often unavailable, or there’s no accessible public transportation near their office.

As one of the most desired accommodations by workers without disabilities as well telecommuting is a viable option that employees should embrace if they want to build an inclusive workforce that includes people with disabilities. (Federal contractors, take note.) As an option that decreases employer costs, telecommuting allows individuals with disabilities to achieve success in the workplace despite physical barriers. For these individuals, banning it instantly rebuilds those barriers.

Think Beyond the Label appreciates that people with disabilities can bring exceptional talent to the workplace, whether they work from a desk in the office or in a wheelchair at home. Any creative, cost-effective solutions that can—literally or figuratively—“bring them to the table” should be encouraged. In an age of advancing mainstream and assistive technology, doing so is easier than ever before.

I frequently travel for work but primarily work from home, and I have a significant mobility impairment, paralyzed from the shoulders down. I truly believe that as long as employees and employers can manage time responsibly, telecommuting is an excellent option for people with impaired mobility. There are certain things that I do to make sure that I’m a productive and valued employee.

It’s my hope that in ending telecommuting, Marissa Mayer—and other CEOS—does not shut out opportunities for qualified people with disabilities.

In my next post, I’ll share my telecommuting tips for staying productive and on-task throughout the day.


Author: Joe Entwisle

Joe Entwisle is a policy analyst for Health & Disability Advocates in the areas of healthcare, employment and work incentives. He has worked as a policy analyst for the state of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin and several private businesses. As an individual with a disability, Joe shares the unique insights of the public and private systems he works with. He also starred in one of Think Beyond the Label’s national T.V. ads in 2010, appearing as a potential job candidate with a disability.