Home Blog Inspiration August 2021 Inclusion isn’t just a buzzword at Telstra

Inclusion isn’t just a buzzword at Telstra

by Niki Petousis

Delivery Chapter Lead Principal

Many of the people I work with would have absolutely no idea I have a disability unless I were to point it out. I had a really intense accident just over seven years ago that left me as a Category One disabled person with a severely injured left arm.
From the moment it happened, I felt so incredibly supported by Telstra. Even when I was in hospital, I was told not to worry about my return to work. I couldn’t use public transport, so they paid for me to get taxis to the office so I could get that office interaction and keep contributing to my team, my work and my role. They provided a special desk, keyboard and chair. They got me a physio as part of a full return-to-work program that was well-balanced and tailored to me.
Today, I’m proud to be the lead for our TelstrAbility network, an amazing safe space for people with all sorts of ‘super powers’ (as we call them!) to meet, ask for help and simply create more awareness around disability.

We also work to celebrate diversity and inclusion.
TelstrAbility is just one example of our inclusive culture, which for me, is one of the biggest reasons why Telstra such a great place to work.
The importance of diversity
I think we can all agree that diversity in the workplace is very important. Studies show that companies with higher levels of diversity have lower turnover rates because their people feel accepted and valued.
Diversity showcases individual differences, perspectives and opinions. It removes the fear of being different and increases acceptance. Like a fresh pair of eyes, diversity also allows for creativity to flourish in ways that it may not have otherwise.

Diverse teams also provide a more realistic representation of the community and customers, making it easier to understand and deliver what they want and need.
How we’re doing our part with TelstrAbility
TelstrAbility is a group for everyone – not just people with disabilities. What it does so effectively is create awareness of inclusion and diversity, and provides understanding for people who have specific requirements.
It also celebrates our amazing and talented people who help create better customer experiences. Our aim is to show everyone what it means to truly support a diverse workforce.
One of the ways we do this is by creating fun activities and campaigns and participating in events. For example, four members of TelstrAbility recently presented at a conference at Scrum Australia on disability inclusion in agile work environments, sharing key learnings from our agile experience at Telstra. It was a very powerful stage to share such important messages.
Importantly, TelstrAbility exists to ensure that anyone managing their work life with a disability is unafraid to ask for help, for a special tool they might need or for some flexibility.
Creating a safe space for people with disabilities
From your very first contact with Telstra as a candidate, you’re encouraged you to let them know if you’ve got any requirements or needs. Once you’re hired, there are platforms and channels to provide ongoing support. If you can’t reach out to your leader directly, they’ll connect you with the right people and platforms to get you the equipment or access you need. 
Inclusion is encouraged at a grassroots level too. For example, I’ve been in in meetings where someone might make a discreet comment like, “Hey, there is a member of the team who has a hearing impairment, so try to speak slowly, or ensure subtitles are turned on when we’re in a meeting room.”
Leaders proactively ask if anyone has any issues or needs, while also supporting people’s right to not disclose their disabilities or special needs/requirements if they aren’t comfortable. We’re trying to ensure we have safe spaces where we make it easy and natural for everyone to discuss these things from the get-go.
I’ve worked at Telstra for a long time now and can say from my own experience that the workplace is very open and accessible for everyone. That’s just the kind of organisation it is. You’re just always helped to be your best self at work, whatever your abilities are!
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