Welcome to the Study!

Hello, and welcome to the first blog post detailing the development of the Inclusive Remote and Hybrid Working Study! This page will provide frequent updates on the progress of the project until its completion in December 2024 and beyond as various outputs from the study’s findings are published.

Whilst forthcoming posts on this page will focus more fully on the latest fieldwork developments of the project, in our first blog we outline the study.

Breaking it down

The Inclusive Remote and Hybrid Working Study is funded by the Nuffield Foundation and explores, through the experiences of disabled workers and employers, how to make remote and hybrid working more inclusive to promote disabled workers’ recruitment, job retention and progression. The rationale for the research stems from the ongoing discussions among employers, policymakers and researchers (among others) as to what the future shape of work might be in a post-pandemic world in which new forms of remote and hybrid working are increasingly available to workers, and to consider whether these changes will be inclusive of disabled workers’ needs.

The project builds on a previous Work Foundation research study conducted by some members of this project team (Paula Holland and Rebecca Florisson), in which it was reported that disabled employees are generally keen to continue working remotely at least some of the time, with 65.8% of disabled workers surveyed ideally wanting to work remotely 80-100% of the time (or 4-5 days a week), while another 16% wanted to work remotely 60% of the time (or the equivalent of 3 days in a full-time working week). However, we found participants were also concerned that working remotely may disadvantage them; for example an increased lack of visibility in the workplace may negatively impact disabled workers’ success to work opportunities and progression.

The report from this research can be found in full by clicking anywhere on this line.

Defining our terms

When utilising terms as nuanced and complex as “disability” and “hybrid working” as the focal points of an academic research project, it is vital for the team conducting the study in question to be as open and clear as possible in how they are specifically defining such terms. There is an extensive literature and a series of ongoing debates on what constitutes “disability” or an “impairment in particular, and the intricacies of these discussions have continued to evolve over the years as new areas of argument are put forth: is Long-Covid, for example, considered a disability? And if so, what are the implications for individual workers and their employers of this, let alone the larger socioeconomic, legal and political ramifications?

While such debates will continue to play out, and perhaps never be fully settled, it is important for both participants of our study and those interested in the research we are conducting to be aware of how we ourselves are defining disability for the purposes of this project, and whether participants themselves identify as being disabled or having an impairment of some form. After careful consideration with our Public Advisory Group, which includes representatives from Disabled People’s Organisations as well as individuals with varying impairments/health conditions and experience of balancing their conditions with home-/hybrid working, we have arrived at the following definition as displayed in the disabled workers’ survey element of the research:

“Do you regard yourself as being disabled and/or having some form of impairment or learning disability or long-term health condition? By ‘long-term’ we mean lasting (or expected to last) 12 months or more. This could include depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, blindness, Long-Covid, Cancer, HIV, or other physical, mental, behavioural and/or cognitive conditions.”

The broad nature of this definition, encompassing long-term health conditions of 12 months or more as well as more traditionally accepted examples of what constitutes being disabled or having an impairment, recognises the ongoing discussions and debates referred to above, as well as a desire to have as broad a participant base as possible for this project’s survey to ensure that a wide range of worker’s experiences are better understood and reflected in our findings.

In a similar fashion, it is equally important for participants in our study to understand what we define as “hybrid working” and “remote working” to understand the specifics of what we are seeking to understand, which we define in the following ways:

By ‘remote working’ we mean working from home or from a remote office outside of the employer’s premises. ‘Hybrid working’ is where people spend part of their time working remotely, and part of their time working in their employer’s premises.”

These definitions provide clear boundaries for both participants in the research and other interested parties to understand more fully what the specific focus of this project is, and what we are most keen to explore through it.

Next steps

Fieldwork is scheduled to begin in early summer 2023, and will include:

  • A UK-wide survey of disabled employees about their experiences of remote or hybrid working and what inclusive remote or hybrid working looks like
  • Follow-up interviews with a sample of survey respondents.
  • Interviews with employers and organisational case studies about how they are implementing remote or hybrid working in the context of workforce diversity.
  • Online focus groups with policymakers from the Department for Work and Pensions, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, The Government Equalities Office, and devolved administrations.

The first stage of this study will be the nationwide survey of disabled workers’ experiences of hybrid and remote working, whether in a previous role and/or a present role (if currently employed). The survey is now live on the project’s website following its current piloting stage which you can find by clicking anywhere on this line, and we encourage all those who meet the criteria to fill out the survey and help participate in this important piece of research.

This is time-critical research: employers are making decisions now about future ways of working that will affect the long-term working conditions, health and wellbeing of disabled workers, and this project will ensure that such decisions are taken with a greater level of understanding of how both employers and workers feel about them.

Keep your eyes peeled for future posts on this page highlighting how the project is going as it continues to develop, and thank you for your interest in our research at this stage: we can’t wait to share our findings with you!