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Neurodiversity - what does it mean in the workplace?
Neurodiversity - what does it mean in the workplace?
People with conditions such as autism and ADHD may have neurological differences which bring unique strengths to the workplace.
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Written by Amber
Updated over a week ago

Neurodiversity is the term used to describe differences in the way our brains are ‘wired’. People with conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and Tourette's syndrome, among others, may have neurological differences which bring unique perspectives, strengths, and ways of thinking to the workplace. Rather than viewing neurodiverse employees as being lesser than ‘neurotypical’ staff members, neurodiversity recognises that differences are a natural and valuable aspect of human diversity.

World Autism Awareness Week, which takes place in the last week of March, is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of neurodiversity in the workplace and talk about how to cultivate it.

Why does neurodiversity matter in the workplace?

It's estimated that approximately 15-20% of the world's population has some form of neurodiversity, so it's likely that several of your workmates will fall into this category.

Neurodiverse people may bring unique competencies to the workplace as a result of different strengths and skills that come with their neurological differences.

For example, people with ADHD often have high levels of spontaneity, courage, and empathy. They can hyper-focus on certain tasks, which can be useful for special projects.

Those with autism often pay attention to complex details, have good memories, and show certain "speciality" skills. Experts think this can be an asset in certain jobs, such as computer programming, risk and governance work or forensic accounting.

People with dyslexia may perceive certain kinds of visual information better than those without the condition. This skill can be useful in jobs like engineering and computer graphics.

Companies which have implemented neurodiversity recruitment programs have seen increases in productivity. Diversity is an asset, not a liability.

How to cultivate neurodiversity in the workplace

  1. Educate and Raise Awareness

One of the first steps in cultivating neurodiversity in the workplace is to educate employees and raise awareness about neurodivergent conditions. Employers can provide training for managers and employees on how to work effectively with neurodivergent colleagues. Inclusivity needs to be built in right from the recruitment stage - here are some tips for making the recruitment process neurodiversity friendly.

By creating a supportive workplace, you'll help to reduce the stress and stigma that neurodivergent people may experience. Not only can this improve mental health, but it can also drive employee engagement.

2. Accommodate individual needs

It's important for employers to understand that neurodivergent individuals may have different needs and preferences when it comes to the workplace environment, to allow them to perform at their best.

These accommodations may include:

Sound sensitivity: Quiet spaces, noise-cancelling headphones and advance warning of loud noises like fire alarms.

Tactile: Consider modifications to the usual work uniform to allow for people’s tactical needs around fabrics or constricting clothes.

Movement: Allow the use of fidget toys, offer extra movement breaks, as well as flexible or ergonomic seating where possible.

All neurodivergent people are different - ask employees which specific supports they need. Some accommodations, such as flexible working and quiet spaces, should be available to everyone where possible.

3. Provide support and resources

Neurodivergent individuals may experience discrimination in the workplace as well as being at a higher risk of depression and anxiety. Employers can provide support and resources for neurodivergent individuals, such as access to mentoring and peer support programs in addition to access to an employee care solution like Sonder.

4. Use a clear communication style

When communicating with team members at a macro level or individually, be inclusive. These tips are also useful in a culturally diverse workplace.

  • Avoid sarcasm, euphemisms, and implied messages.

  • Provide clear verbal and written instructions for tasks, and break tasks down into small steps.

  • Inform people about workplace/social etiquette, and don’t assume someone is deliberately breaking the rules or being rude.

By embracing the unique perspectives and abilities of neurodivergent individuals, employers can create a more innovative, productive, and inclusive work environment. World Autism Awareness Week is a great opportunity to prompt us to learn more about neurodiversity and taking steps to support neurodivergent individuals in the workplace.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Image credit: Christina, Unsplash

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

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