The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023 results are in. And let us start by saying: we’ve got a lot to tell you, just as the research had a lot to tell us.
Thanks to you – the 1,500 employees and 400 managers who shared their views with us, and those of you among our Members and Partners who promoted the Survey – we can present one of most comprehensive studies of workplace inclusion today.
The first time we ran The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey in 2019, we focused very much on just workplace adjustments. But respondents hinted that there was a lot more affecting disabled employees’ experiences than adjustments alone.
That’s become even clearer since then, given the dramatic changes to working life brought about by COVID-19, and the complex new environment employers and employees have had to navigate as a result.
Therefore, for The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023, we asked the same questions about adjustments as in 2019, but also new questions about workplace culture, the impact of the pandemic, and the role of in-work support like occupational health and employee assistance programmes, among other topics not covered the first time we ran the survey.
So, based on what the survey told us: where are we now, and where do we go from here?
The state of workplace adjustments in 2023
Firstly, The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023 confirmed that workplaces are still not as inclusive as they need to be.
Disabled employees are still waiting too long for the adjustments they need to reduce or remove the barriers they experience in their jobs: 1 in 8 employees have to wait more than a year for them. Employees also have to push for adjustments, or even fund them, themselves. Only ten percent of people told us it was easy to get the adjustments they needed.
Or, as one employee put it: “I did all the organisation myself as I waited 2 years for my manager to do something. In the end, I paid for it myself.”
Are things better than they were in 2019? In some ways, yes. Getting adjustments is four per cent faster than in 2019, and managers, who play a key role in the adjustments process, are showing more confidence in approaching disability too. 64 per cent of managers told us they are very confident to have a conversation with an employee who tells them they have a disability or a condition, and 81 per cent said it is a lot easier to make adjustments when an employee tells them they have a disability or condition.
Adjustments: only one piece of the inclusion ‘puzzle’
These are encouraging signs, but one of the major themes of our findings in 2023 was that adjustments are only one part of the experience for disabled employees. Other barriers go beyond adjustments to individual roles. Disabled people reported a range of other issues in the survey, including bullying and harassment, limited career and development opportunities, inaccessibility of programs and initiatives intended to support wellbeing, and wider inaccessibility of buildings and systems. Only slightly less than a fifth (18 per cent) said their adjustments removed all barriers in the workplace.
It’s not that adjustments don’t help – they do, and they’re a vital feature of an inclusive workplace experience for disabled people. But a key theme that came from responses to the survey was that disability was a ‘whole-life’ experience. Employees don’t stop being disabled once an adjustment is in place – and barriers from other aspects of working life don’t disappear either. In the words of one employee: “The adjustments help more than not having them, but they don’t remove all of the barriers because the conditions are still there and still affect the working day. For example, they can’t help when I have a bad day and am in so much pain.” This makes it all the more difficult when an employer or manager decides an adjustment means ‘mission accomplished’ in terms of removing every barrier for a disabled employee, as we heard from several people in the survey.
In other words, while we called our research The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023, we found many other different factors affecting inclusion at work. Too many to cover in one blog, in fact!
With that in mind, we’re going to be releasing blogs every couple of weeks until December, giving a closer look at each of the different issues and topics raised by our research. If there’s a particular topic you want us to take a look at, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also find out more by reading the full research report and visiting The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023 webpages.
For now, we’ll leave you with our three top recommendations for employers based on research:
- Simplify the workplace adjustments process.
- Provide more support for managers and the role they play in workplace inclusion.
- Develop a wider workplace approach to understanding the experience of having a disability and to removing disability-related barriers – beyond focusing on workplace adjustments.
The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023 was conducted by Business Disability Forum and sponsored by Microlink. It examines the experiences of nearly 1,500 disabled employees and 400 managers around workplace adjustments and inclusion.