Remote working & shopping: can all your staff & customers do it?

At this difficult time, we’re seeing lots of articles on how staff can best work from home because of Covid-19, and how customers are leaning on digital platforms to do previously face-to-face tasks.

While our thoughts are with all those who will remain on the front line providing necessary services for all, over the next few months there will be unprecedented use of remote working, shopping, learning, banking and more, and the need for the widest population possible to use digital products.

Time is of the essence to serve your staff and customers well digitally, including those who are older or have disabilities who could be most vulnerable.

Here are some of our thoughts on how we can be there for you, so you can be there for them:

1: Learn how best to work remotely from people who’ve been doing it already

People with a disability often need to work remotely. In my colleague Toby’s blog What’s your #Workstyle? Are you judged on outcomes — or where you sit? from last year, he talks about how useful it is for him to be able to work remotely, because of his mobility difficulty. If it takes him a long time to get into work, then it’s so much easier and more efficient to work from home – this accessibility aid is part of the workplace adjustments he needs to thrive in his work. So, if you do already have staff who work like this, learn from the practices they and the teams they work with will have already established to make remote working work well.

2: Make sure all your remote working technologies work for all your staff

For organisations that don’t already have established remote working tools and practices, the transition between how you do work in the office and do work in the home can introduce barriers for people with disabilities if the digital technologies that you choose to facilitate remote working aren’t accessible. Some tools like MS Teams and Zoom already include things like auto transcription to help people who are Deaf in team calls, so make sure the tools you choose are able to be used by everyone. If you need any help making sure this is the case, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to recommend accessible tools, or audit the accessibility of your existing set of tools.

3: Expect people’s behaviour to change – many who wouldn’t have shopped digitally will do so because of this situation

What applies to your digital tools for staff also applies to your website and mobile apps for customers. Over the weekend I’ve set up online shops to deliver supplies to both sets of grandparents in our family. This is something that they’ve been resistant of before, but are now open to because of the current circumstances.

At a time when the government are looking to ask elderly people to stay at home, digital services – whether they are shopping, news or social connection – take on much more importance.

While handling demand and uptime may be foremost in your mind at the moment, it’s also important that your digital services are able to be used for everyone, especially those who are older or have disabilities who may need them most.

Put things in place to enable everyone to use your services now when they need them, and they could still be loyal customers when the crisis is over.

4: To meet these new challenges and opportunities, take the opportunity now to upskill your staff while they are more time-efficient working from home

In the past, we’ve found that where organisations are transitioning from staff working in the office to working from home – for example on days when there is severe weather – a great way of keeping staff connected and positive is to train them remotely.

While you restructure the way you work, some usual activities may be delayed or cancelled, and less time is spent travelling, so your staff may have time to do some of the things they don’t usually have time for. We suggest this could be an opportunity to invest in accessibility training for your staff, provided remotely. It’s a great way of motivating and growing your team’s knowledge and skills so that you can help with the crisis now, and when they’re back in the office you can drive forwards to recover lost time and business quickly, with better skills than when the hiatus started. Let us know if you’d like more information on training your product teams remotely during this time.

We can help you now, as we’re an organisation that has always worked remotely

At Hassell Inclusion we have a team who have worked and provided services remotely for years.

Our Live Audits accelerate a review of your current digital product, so you can rapidly support your widest customer base and be there for them. This is completely practical, pragmatic and outcome-focussed. It’s not a report on a shelf; it’s a prioritised list of actions so you can make the changes now. And it can be done remotely.

We’ve also been delivering Digital Accessibility Training remotely all over the world for years. Training people on the other side of the planet over WebEx has always been more sustainable than always having to fly. It has also allowed us to efficiently train teams of people in the same time-zone, but not necessarily in the same place, for companies where teams are offshored in multiple countries. So we know how to engage your staff with training when they can’t all be together.

Pretty much all that we do can be done remotely. So we are open for “business as usual” to help you address the accessibility and usability needs of the current situation.

Please reach out to us if we can help you support and deliver to your staff and customers in this unprecedented time.

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