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Barriers to Working a Traditional 9-to-5

Humans are hard-wired for work. For some, however, participating in the traditional 9-5 work world is difficult.

Humans are hard-wired for work. It contributes to our well-being, confidence and more. For some, however, participating in the traditional 9-to-5 work world is difficult. Their differences lead to barriers that limit opportunities for advancement and meaningful contribution.

Those differences can take many forms, like physical or other disabilities, neurodiversity, mental health challenges and even geography – just to name a few.

Let’s break that down.

People with physical disabilities may face barriers before they even get to work. Commuting in any fashion may take enormous effort. Once at work, environmental barriers, like lack of ramps or elevator access, can continue to create challenges throughout the day.

Of course, not all disabilities are visible. There are medical and other conditions that affect employment, like neurodiversity, hearing impairment or living with a chronic condition. Some choose not to disclose their invisible disability out of fear of discrimination, stereotyping or being seen as less capable. Instead, they struggle in silence to meet expectations without accommodations that could help them.

For example, someone with a chronic condition may need more frequent time off for doctor appointments or flare ups. Their absenteeism may impact the perception of their otherwise stellar performance.

Those with mental health challenges may struggle in a traditional 9-to-5 role too. They “may doubt their abilities or appear less confident. A person may have a hard time concentrating, learning, and making decisions,” as noted in the Mental Illness in the Workplace article from the Canadian Mental Health Association.

It goes on to say “people who experience a mental illness may withdraw from others, act in unexpected ways, take a lot of time off, or appear less productive than usual. This can strain relationships with supervisors and co-workers.”

Where someone lives can be a barrier to gainful employment or the career they desire. For example, for youth wanting to step onto the traditional corporate ladder, living in a small or rural town is a disadvantage.

Sure, the increasingly larger shift to remote work in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic helped reduce some of this burden, but it’s not gone yet – particularly because remote work relies on a quality internet connection that can be challenging in the same regions that lack access to in-person opportunities.

It’s a sound investment for employers to identify and remove barriers in their workplace to help attract and retain talent, including physical, informational, technological, organizational and attitudinal barriers. Some ways Canadian employers are helping those who struggle in a traditional 9-to-5 setting succeed is:

  • creating an inclusive workplace where people feel comfortable disclosing barriers

  • providing accommodation, like flexible schedules and alternative working arrangements

  • making it easy to seek and acquire support through formalized processes and policies

  • taking differences into consideration during performance evaluations

  • asking for feedback to ensure the support provided is adequate

Expanding the definition of good performance at work beyond historical expectations for a traditional 9-to-5 helps everyone thrive. After all, just because someone needs to do a job differently doesn’t mean they can’t do it.

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