|People using services may experience many barriers to engaging with organisations face-to-face whilst juggling other responsibilities and demands on their time and energy. When their preference is accessing services online, giving a digital option can provide flexibility, dignity and improve outcomes, giving them support more tailored to their needs. |
Many members of staff are burnt out from the demands of working during the pandemic, on top of juggling many other demands on their time and energy. Giving them the option to work digitally (from home) is helping them manage their mental health and the wider determinants of health. It provides flexibility, dignity and increases autonomy in a way that is incredibly positive for many people and, anecdotally, seems to be decreasing instances of absences.
Some examples of accessing services online/home working meeting accessibility needs for staff and people accessing services:
With the current COVID risk digital or hybrid provides a safe alternative for people who are anxious about public transport and/or working/accessing face to face, or shielding themselves or people they care for.
It can enable people with chronic illnesses to work/access services when, on some days, it would have been incredibly challenging or impossible. Cutting out the return journey to/from a physical building can help them save ‘spoons’ (units of energy).
People with mental health diagnoses including anxiety, depression and PTSD can find that going into a physical building some days is completely overwhelming – the option of homeworking/accessing services remotely allows them to function enough to engage on their own terms. Managers have found anecdotally that this improves productivity rather than reduces it.
Some people with visual and sensory impairments, like hearing loss, found that, when the right conditions were created to take into account their accessibility needs, like high quality transcription, online BSL interpreters, or audio descriptions, they could engage more with online content than some face-to-face content. Some staff members found it easier to accommodate accessibility requirements within online events.
People with sensory challenges, for example people with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Autistic people who experience hyper-sensitivity, people with ADHD/ADD, can find some physical environments overloading and it affects their wellbeing/productivity/ability to engage. Examples include fluorescent lighting (the light and humming sound), high levels of background noise/conversation, the physical discomfort of having to wear headphones for long periods when you wouldn’t have to at home, etc.
People with caring responsibilities, including people with children, those caring for relatives, partners or friends, found it gave them the flexibility needed to manage caring responsibilities and work/engage with services.
People with executive dysfunction can find being in busy face-to-face environments incredibly distracting which can have a big impact on wellbeing and productivity/ability to engage with services.
People with migraines can have a place to stop and rest that is dark and quiet if a bad migraine comes on, so accessing/working digitally allows them the space to do that.
People with bladder or bowel conditions benefit from access to a private toilet when working/accessing services from home and it decreases anxiety around accessing a toilet.
Some people with insomnia have found it increases the sleep they are able to obtain per night, both through not having to get up to commute to work/access services, but also by removing some of the anxiety around the time they have to wake up.
Some people, including introverts and people with anxiety, can struggle with open concept offices/spaces as they can feel ‘on display’, and their work can suffer for it.
Stigma around accessing services can stop people going into physical buildings to get support.
Some people feel more able to regularly get up, move and stretch whilst working from home without feeling self-conscious or worrying they are distracting people, which supports their musculoskeletal health, wellbeing and productivity.
Working from home provides a safer, more manageable transition back into work for people who have been bereaved. Similarly, service users who have suffered a bereavement may find it overwhelming to access services face-to-face.
We’ve heard anecdotally that some people can feel unsafe travelling home after an emotionally intensive support session (e.g. therapy) – being able to close the laptop and be at home can be a huge help.
Because of cutting out travel time, it means both service users and staff can have the time to connect with a wider range of people/resources than they would have otherwise, widening their reach. This could be increased access to colleagues across related organisations and webinars and training, or being able to support more service users in terms of staff time. In terms of service users, it can increase the amount of services and resources they can access, and increase the frequency they’re able to access them.