Telecommuting Is a Top Perk for Workers with Disabilities, Survey Says

By , May 8, 2013

A new survey we commissioned around telecommuting reveals that 81% of professionals with disabilities would like to telecommute, at least part time. Telecommuting also is named as the second most-wanted benefit among workers with disabilities, just behind paid time off. And it beat out other office perks like free lunch, flexible spending programs and onsite fitness centers.

Telecommuting can be an especially valuable benefit for many professionals with disabilities because there are times when being able to work from home is necessary—whether to accommodate a disability or because of the lack of accessible transportation. We surveyed more than 200 people with disabilities; 85% have six or more years of job experience, and 65%  have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Our survey also unveils an unexpected twist. While eight out of 10 professionals with disabilities say they would like the option to telecommute, the majority (67%) say they would still take a job if their employer didn’t offer it. And only 17% say they need to telecommute because of a disability.

That tells me something I’ve been saying all along to hiring managers and HR executives: Qualified people with disabilities can be recruited just like anyone else, and very rarely do they need special treatment.

Indeed, the survey also shows that only 30% of workers with disabilities need an assistive technology to perform their job; of those that need assistance, most of the solutions cost $500 or less, such as needing an adjustable-height desk or a speech-to-text program such as Dragon Dictate.

Telecommuting also suits people with disabilities perfectly because they have adapted so well to using technology in their daily lives. Perhaps that’s why 71% of workers with disabilities say telecommuting makes them work more efficiently.

Thus the message of inclusive recruiting—using the same strategy to recruit everyone including people with disabilities—is very valid here. The survey truly underscores that employers looking to hire diverse candidates, including people with disabilities, should offer telecommuting as a workplace benefit so they can attract the best possible workforce.

Most smart companies already know this. In Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in 2013, eight of the top 10 companies, including Google, SAS and The Boston Consulting Group, offer telecommuting options. In DiversityInc’s Top 10 Companies for People with Disabilities, flexible work options are a criterion for the award. This year, winners included companies like Ernst & Young, Microsoft and Accenture, which are known to have generous telework policies.

As more employers recognize the value that this group brings to the workplace, the workplace perks will follow. And that will benefit all workers, including highly qualified people with disabilities.

Author: Barbara Otto

Barbara Otto is the CEO of Health & Disability Advocates, which manages Think Beyond the Label.