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Lockdown stories: working from home with hearing loss

4 May 2020: Ganeev Chadha, a Commercial Performance Manager at EY, has had profound hearing loss since birth. He shares his experience of working from home during lockdown and the steps his team are taking to stay connected.

As part of Deaf Awareness Week starting this week, Chadha is sharing his experience of staying connected during the coronavirus pandemic and how the EY Hearing Community is providing colleagues with additional support.

“Within a matter of weeks, many people across the country have shifted into a new world of mass working from home. For me, that’s meant losing the ability to have regular informal face-to-face meetings with my stakeholders where I can follow conversations easily by lip-reading and interpreting body language. This is a vital part of my daily communications: in-person meetings enable me to develop a rapport with colleagues and make it easier for me to understand projects or tasks. 

While it’s been challenging to fully replicate this experience at the moment, video calls have been a blessing. Being able to still see colleagues’ faces has helped with the adjustment, along with the additional live captioning features. While not always 100% accurate, coupled with lip-reading, it makes a big difference in understanding conversations. 

The effectiveness of video calls can depend on a number of factors: small details like a well-lit room, the other person speaking slowly and clearly, each person on the call speaking one at a time, and patience from colleagues who may have to repeat sentences, all have an impact. 

I’m extremely fortunate to have a supportive manager, colleagues, and stakeholders who are very flexible in how they communicate and work with me. We have created several different channels of communication for the core team, client team and key stakeholders, where we can keep in touch and discuss any personal or work challenges. 

For example, we have a weekly video call meeting which allows us to talk about our progress on projects, how our working week is looking and also check in on how everyone is doing. The aim of the call is to create a comfortable space for us to talk about how we are feeling – these have been really valuable for keeping us all connected during this time. 

As one of the co-chairs of the EY Hearing Community – one of our employee-led networks – I’ve been helping to send out regular communications on effective ways of working in lockdown, as well as tips and advice around mental health and wellbeing. The topics have covered a whole range of issues, from ways to keep active and practising mindfulness, to guidance on how to set up live captioning for video calls, advice on the use of palantypists (someone who can type up a verbatim account of conversations), or how to access guidance on any workplace adjustments they might need. We’ve also been keeping in touch and sharing insights with members of EY other networks such as Ability EY – our disability network.

Speaking openly with colleagues about my hearing loss has been really helpful in creating an inclusive environment where people feel they can ask questions to better understand my disability. Raising awareness of these issues as we continue to adapt to the current working situation has been crucial in making sure everyone can get the support they need.

For the latest news and guidance on the ongoing impact of COVID-19 for businesses and accountants, visit ICAEW’s dedicated coronavirus hub.