Remote working: How to make it work for you

Thanks to the pandemic changing the way we work, more and more disabled people are working from home. We asked award-winning journalist, author and disabled activist Frances Ryan for her top tips on how to ask an employer for reasonable adjustments, and the best sources of advice.

During the pandemic, remote working became synonymous with #WFH jokes: from endless Zoom meetings to baking banana bread in your breaks.

But for many disabled people, the shift to working at home was life changing. If you’d left employment because autism meant a busy office was over-stimulating, the quiet of your own home could help you get
a new job. If chronic pain made the commute exhausting, the walk from your bedroom to the kitchen desk
was easy.

I know this very well myself. As a wheelchair user with fatigue, I work from home as a journalist and author. The flexibility allows me to contribute to an industry I care about and earn a wage at the same time as looking after my health. While I worked remotely before coronavirus, the pandemic helped normalise it. Suddenly, we were all taking meetings from our living rooms. 

Thankfully, remote working seems here to stay. A survey by the Equal Parenting Project this year found employers are more positive about flexible working than they have ever been: three-quarters believe that it increases productivity and 62.5% consider that it boosts motivation. The research also showed that hybrid working – alternating between the office and working at home – has become more acceptable in recent years; the percentage of managers expecting their employees to be in the office just one day a week has nearly doubled, from 10.5% in 2021 to 20.4% in 2022.

That’s good news for disabled employees and jobseekers. Being disabled can often make it harder to find or stay in work – the disability employment rate is only 52.6% compared with 82.5% for non-disabled people – but moving past the conventional ‘9 to 5 office’ model of work is a key way to tackle this. Although practicalities mean not every job can be done remotely, many professional roles are possible to do from the comfort of home, from the creative industries, data management and consultancy to public relations.

If you’re currently looking for accessible or remote work, there are a host of great employment services dedicated to supporting you. 

Happy disabled man working from home with his dog

Research consistently shows disabled people overwhelmingly want the option to work from home. Nine in 10 disabled workers surveyed who worked from home during the pandemic want to continue doing so at least some of the time, according to a YouGov poll by the TUC. Meanwhile, a study by the Work Foundation think-tank at Lancaster University in 2022 found over 80% of disabled workers surveyed thought remote working would be “essential” or “very important” when looking for a new job, while 66% ideally wanted to work from home 80-100% of the time. It’s no wonder; 70% said that not being allowed to work remotely would negatively affect their health.

It might feel nerve-wracking to ask for accommodations at work but know that you have every right to. If you have a disability, you can request remote working – or any flexible working pattern, such as part-time hours – as what’s called a “reasonable adjustment” under the Equality Act. Your employer does not have to agree with every request, but if yours is reasonable and necessary for you to do your job, they are legally required to. You can do this just after you’ve been offered a job or when you already have one.

Before speaking to your employer, you may want to make a list of your duties at work and note why remote working would benefit you. A savvy employer will jump at the chance to help you be more productive. If you meet resistance, talk to your union or join one; they can help explain and defend your rights at work.

If you’re currently looking for accessible or remote work, there are a host of great employment services dedicated to supporting you. Try the accessible job-hunting site Evenbreak or Astriid, a charity that helps connect people with long-term health conditions with employers and accessible work opportunities.

Companies such as VERCIDA specialise in making the workplace more inclusive, including helping disabled jobseekers and those seeking remote working. Accessible employment platform Patchwork Hub connects “hidden talent” such as disabled professionals with flexible jobs. Elsewhere, Toucan Employment specialises in supporting people with autism or learning disabilities into work, and MyPlus Students’ Club helps graduates with disabilities find their dream job.

Employers who permit remote working aren’t giving an act of altruism – they’re embracing a smart way to help retain and bring in disabled talent. If you’ve been looking for a more accessible way to work, why not look into remote working? Banana bread not required.


About the author
Frances Ryan is an award-winning Guardian columnist whose work has appeared on the front page of the New York Times, on Channel 4 and in British Vogue. She has twice been highly commended at the National Press Awards. She is author of Crippled (2019) and the upcoming Who Wants Normal? (2025).

Further reading

Additional support at home

Feeling safe and supported is vital to staying independent at home. The Priority Services Register (PSR) is a free service, designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply.

If you or someone you know has communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help you to access the best possible services at all times and to feel safe and independent at home.

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