5 Ways to Foster Trust and Support for Disabled Colleagues at Work

As an employer, have you ever considered the efforts you make toward fostering trust and support in the workplace?

There are many different ingredients when it comes to producing a happy and productive workforce, with trust and support key parts of this unique recipe.

With society making strides towards becoming more inclusive, the workplace is following suit. This means that offices are becoming much more diverse and opening up to, in particular, individuals with disabilities.

As disabled individuals have faced historical and contemporary exclusion and discrimination, they might find it difficult to feel supported at work and to trust management. To that end, this article suggests five ways to strengthen trust and support for disabled colleagues at work.

Let’s explore them together.

Why Is Fostering Employee Trust and Support Important?

Though it may seem obvious, it’s important to underscore the importance of fostering trust and support in the workplace. Research shows that employees who have a high sense of trust in management are more motivated, less likely to skip work, and more incentivized to stay at their current job.

When we consider the disabled community, we are talking about a group that already faces discrimination and misunderstanding in society. With that in mind, disabled employees are more likely to experience distrust in the workplace if work leaders and colleagues turn a blind eye to their disabilities, or worse, discriminate against them.

Trust can be eroded for disabled employees if, for example, they don’t feel listened to, they feel discriminated against, their needs aren’t accommodated, and the workplace doesn’t feel inclusive.

If they feel undervalued and disrespected, it’s likely that disabled employees will look for a job elsewhere, which can lead to high job turnover. What is job turnover? It’s the rate at which employees leave your company and are replaced by new ones. It’s important to keep

this number is low, as high turnover rates are costly and affect staff morale.

Free to use image sourced from Pexels The above picture shows three people sitting at a work desk with laptops open. Two are women and 1 is a man in a wheelchair.

this number low, as high turnover rates are costly and affect staff morale.

With that in mind, let’s investigate the best ways to support your disabled employees at work.

5 Ways to Foster Trust and Support for Disabled Colleagues 

  1. Regular Feedback

Open and regular communication and feedback are key parts of building a supportive workplace network for disabled colleagues. It’s an effective way of showing them that their input and ideas are valued.

Most often, this takes the form of monthly or bimonthly 1:1 meetings. Make sure to highlight that this time is not only for you to deliver feedback, but for your employees to raise any concerns or queries they may have.

It’s important to implement defined systems of feedback, for two reasons. Firstly, giving unsolicited feedback is a surefire way to blindside all employees. Secondly, it institutionalizes the notion that employees’ feedback is valuable. For disabled employees who might be wary of being disbelieved or ignored, this is especially meaningful.

And one last thing: make sure to take their feedback to heart. You may not be able to implement all suggestions but remember that it can be difficult for disabled employees to advocate for themselves. They may even feel like they are asking for too much, so doing your best to see ideas through will mean a lot.

  1. Goal-Setting and Growth

Again, this recommendation is typical for all employees, but it’s important to show extra energy and focus when it comes to disabled team members.

By making it very clear that you don’t just want them to survive at work, but to thrive, you are clearly indicating how their personal and professional growth is important to you.

A great way to start with this is to get employees to write down two or three main goals that they want to achieve over the year. Remind them of the SMART framework, where you create goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound; such goals are easier to achieve.

Free to use image sourced from Pexels. The above picture shows three people sitting at a work desk. One has a laptop open. One is in a wheelchair.

As an example, your entry-level sales employee may want to increase the number of calls they’re making by 10% in the next six months. This is both a realistic, measurable and achievable goal; by using online call tracking, you’ll have access to extensive call metadata, making this particular metric a breeze to evaluate.

Do your best to create plans for employees, open doors for them and make resources available. This may look like setting up a meeting with another head of department or inviting them to sign up for a relevant training course.

  1. Embody DEI Efforts

It’s no use implementing blind recruitment and hiring an individual with a disability if the workplace itself is not disabled-friendly.

Good intentions are rarely enough to make a workplace inclusive, so it’s important to go the extra mile. Be the advocate that your disabled employees need, so that they don’t have to take on this role.

Implement inclusive policies and practices and use the feedback garnered from the 1:1 sessions that we mentioned above. Consider the different technologies available that can make life easier for individuals with disabilities. For instance, an automated dialer automatically calls numbers from a list, which can help employees with mobility issues.

Employment network groups, diversity training, and guest speakers are other ways to create a welcoming and inclusionary workplace. These gestures, no matter if they’re small or big, will go a long way towards fostering trust and support for disabled team members.

  1. Facilitate Easy Processes

Another important thing you can do is take the time to understand the rights of your disabled employees, so you can be on their side. Knowing that your employees have the right to equal opportunities, reasonable accommodations, access to wellness programs, and more means that you come prepared. Consequently, it is no longer the job of your disabled employees to educate you.

Free to use image sourced from Pexels. The above picture shows a woman in a wheelchair sitting at her work desk with her laptop open.

Be aware that there is disproportionately more red tape for disabled individuals to navigate at work, too. Accommodation requests, waiting times, disclosure of private medical information that can be costly and time-consuming to acquire… The list is endless.

You can’t wave a magic wand and make them all disappear. However, where possible, you should make the process easier and more comfortable. This can look like having an HR team that is up-to-date and aware of processes and timeframes, as well as willing to lend a hand to disabled employees. More importantly, lead the charge in creating a sympathetic and understanding environment, to reduce stress on employees.

  1. Flexibility

Finally, a huge part of fostering trust and support is by implementing a flexible work culture. This allows disabled colleagues to work in the way that best suits them.

Flexible work structures can include remote work, flexible hours, assistive technology, accessible workspaces, and individualized accommodations. With the recent gravity shift towards remote work, many companies are already implementing these and seeing beneficial results.

By creating a flexible and personalized work environment, you create the right conditions for disabled employees to flourish in the workplace.

Support and Trust: Important Workplace Ingredients

Free to use image sourced from Pexels. The above picture shows a man in a wheelchair at work holding a book.

We hope this article gave you some starting ideas for how to foster support and trust for individuals with disabilities in the workplace.

Whether it’s creating an empathetic environment where feedback is listened to and implemented, or doing the hard work of advocacy so that your disabled employees don’t have to, there are numerous ways to instill trust in the workplace.

The result? Happy, motivated individuals who can grow and develop with ease.