How Bank of America has innovated to support disabled employees

Remote work required by COVID has put a unique strain on such workers, which the company has sought to alleviate.
By: | June 3, 2021
(Image: Adobe)

This is the second in a series spotlighting five leading companies that relied on HR innovation to confront the challenges of the pandemic and to continue transforming their workforce. Read more here.

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While the pandemic has presented employees everywhere with significant obstacles—financial worries, a lack of boundaries with home life, heavier workloads—for employees with disabilities, the burden has likely been even heavier.

Since March 2020, one in seven American workers has lost their job—a figure that stands at one in five for those with disabilities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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To combat such statistics, Bank of America sought to provide tailored support and guidance to the more than 300 employees with intellectual disabilities who work in marketing and fulfillment operations. The team, which stretches across four states, is overseen by BofA’s Support Services division, helmed by senior executive Mark Feinour.

Apart from ensuring that workers’ salaries and benefits were not disrupted by the pandemic, the organization offered a safety net in a number of other ways, he says.

Mark Feinour of Bank of America

Bank of America kept in touch with the sponsoring agencies of Support Services employees to ensure the company had a comprehensive view of their needs. For instance, with public transportation—on which many Support Services employees depend—scaled back during the pandemic, BofA helped set up drive-through flu shot events where team members could visit with family or caregivers to receive vaccinations right from inside a vehicle. The company also worked with agencies to deliver medications directly to employees’ homes.

“We have our staff reach out at least once a week to touch base with each employee to check on their wellbeing and see if there is anything they need because there’s a lot of things that we take for granted that our employees cannot do,” Feinour says.

Related: How Verizon hopes to level the playing field for working women

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Wellbeing remains a primary focus for Feinour. While some Support Services employees live with family, others are on their own—and depend on work for connection.

“This is their social outlet. They take pride in what they do,” says Feinour.

The organization provided individualized training to help Support Services employees learn how to communicate virtually, such as through Zoom and FaceTime. Feinour’s team sent weekly mailings to team members’ homes, including hard-copy cards, newsletters and games to keep them engaged.

Support Services has also organized virtual volunteering events: For example, the team mailed supplies for creating holiday cards for the military and signs for the Delaware Special Olympics to employees’ homes, they worked on the projects together through video calls and then team managers collected the finished products from employees’ homes and delivered them.

Employees, especially as they get vaccinated, have regularly asked about going back to work in person, though Feinour notes the team has to follow the recommendation of the larger, global organization. Although he has had to emphasize the health and safety concerns that have kept them from working together in person, Feinour says, he eagerly tells his team members that “they will be doing it again.”

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Writer Carol Brzozowski contributed to this story.

Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.

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