We often talk about remote work as a perk to make working more comfortable and convenient, but there are important aspects that are often ignored in this conversation. Accessibility and inclusion are, to me, the most relevant ones.
Effective collaboration requires giving space to people so that they can perform at their best; what some folks don't realize is that some people require more mental space than others. Good docs and asynchronous communication then become internal accessibility concerns.— Erika Heidi (@erikaheidi) November 13, 2019
Sometimes, I might require more mental space to navigate the world. It happens when my mental footprint in that particular day is higher than usual, with accumulating thoughts or too many things to do. It's like walking around with a big backpack: totally doable and sometimes necessary, but it kinda sucks in packed places and when you have to take something out of it in a hurry. It also makes you more tired than usual.
We're all different and wired in different ways; there's a bunch of brilliant people out there who will never be able to perform at their best capacity unless they're given access to the tools and space to effectively harvest what's on their hearts and minds.
Remote work, when well supported, allows introverts and all sorts of neurodivergent folks to feel safe for expressing themselves better and at their own pace, thanks to asynchronous communication. Good processes and documentation are an essential part of all this. And although I recognize going remote might not be the best option for everyone, in my case it has really improved my mental health, productivity and overall enjoyment of life / work balance.
In the context of team work, it should only matter that if this is how someone performs better, and if you want their best work, you should make the effort to provide them with the mental space they need.
Meetings are still a pain point that can be greatly softened out by giving people enough time to prepare. That means no last-minute meetings, and no meetings without a previous shared agenda, for instance. Surprise "everyone will each share something" moments are a no-no to me personally, I understand the motivation behind it, but it can be anxiety inducing for some folks.
As an introvert, I think nothing changed my career the same way as going remote did, and that's why I am so eager to support the idea of making remote the new normal. There will come a day when we look back and we can't understand why people in IT jobs were required to go to an office to type letters there, when they could be typing letters at home.
Have you got any thoughts about remote work as a tool for accessibility and for supporting neurodiversity? Please share in the comments :)