Workplace Accommodations Are Often Simple and Inexpensive

Workplace Accommodations Are Often Simple and Inexpensive

April 17, 2024

Workplace accommodations have an undeserved reputation for being difficult and expensive. Employers often worry accommodations will bring high costs and legal complications. Similarly, employees often hesitate to ask for accommodations because they don’t want to be disruptive or viewed differently.

Changing the narrative around workplace accommodations from a negative to a positive is good for all parties.

The compliance aspect is nonnegotiable. The Americans with Disabilities Act gives qualified employees with disabilities the right to reasonable accommodations unless those accommodations would impose an undue hardship on business operations (which is an extremely difficult standard for employers to prove).

In most cases, high-cost workplace accommodations are more myth than reality. And there are benefits to accommodation for both employees and employers.

The myth of high costs

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Accommodation Network (JAN) reports that about half of workplace accommodations require no cost to employers. The other half typically cost around $300.

You can implement the following reasonable accommodations at low or no cost:

  • Flexible work schedules
  • Remote work options
  • Job-sharing opportunities
  • Modified work duties
  • Written, verbal or sign language options in job interviews and training materials
  • Captions for videos and meetings
  • Preselected communication preferences for receiving information (e.g., email, text, phone, face-to-face, written word, audio recording, etc.)
  • Noise and light reduction techniques
  • Disability awareness and education

JAN recommends exploring low-tech and low-cost options first. For example, installing inexpensive curtains to reduce sunlight can be as effective as anti-glare computer monitors. Using flat objects to adjust the height of a keyboard or monitor may preclude the need to purchase an adjustable chair or desk.

While you must meet the needs of employees, you don’t have to accommodate exact requests, especially if they’re more expensive. Ask for employee input. Demonstrating your willingness to be creative and flexible encourages your employees to discuss their needs and potential solutions.

The benefits of accommodation

Accommodating employees’ diverse physical and mental needs creates cultural, wellness and business advantages.

It builds an inclusive work culture based on trust and psychological safety. And when employees speak up about their needs, both sides benefit from improved well-being and productivity.

The human resources association SHRM also reports a correlation between disability equality and business success. SHRM notes companies with inclusive practices for employees with disabilities enjoyed 1.6 times more revenue and twice the profit of other organizations.

In addition, Forbes magazine highlights the following benefits of reasonable accommodations:

  • Expanded labor pool and diversity
  • Improved productivity
  • Enhanced morale and job satisfaction
  • Higher retention rates
  • Reduced workers’ compensation costs
  • Better organizational reputation
  • Increased legal compliance

Explore your options

For more information on workplace accommodations, talk to your benefits adviser. They can help you explore compliant, cost-effective solutions that meet the needs of your business and your workforce.