The need for inclusive workplaces surged recently as companies understood the need for everyone to have rights. Such a work environment acknowledges people’s differences and is aware of bias or discrimination happening in the world. Inclusive businesses know that inclusivity brings them high-quality talent and strengthens transparency in the workforce, attracting positive opportunities and collaborations for the future.
Generally speaking, every company can say that its culture promotes diversity in the workplace, but the truth is that 76% of businesses lack diversity and inclusion goals. At the same time, most of these organizations view DEIB goals (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging) as essential only from the perspective of abiding by legal and compliance laws.
This might be prevalent because they don’t have the knowledge basis of what DEIB includes. When hearing of diversity, managers may think of a “one-size-fits-all” approach, but the term they should refer to when searching is neurodiversity, which is a complex and understanding term for people who see the world differently than most of us.
How commonplace is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity encapsulates, simply put, contrasting ways the human brain processes and interprets information. The conditions which can be included in this non-medical term are attention deficit disorders, autism and dyslexia, among many others, and they’re not as strange as it seems. In the UK, for example, one in seven people, more than 15% of the population, have been diagnosed as neurodivergent, meaning their brain functions are slightly different than most people.
Of course, these affections aren’t automatically linked with a disability, but if they are, that doesn’t mean a person’s abilities to learn and work are less efficient. Autism is, however, considered a neurological development ability, but its spectrum is incredibly diverse.
Throughout history, many neurodivergent people, such as Sir Anthony Hopkins, Marie Curie and Nikola Tesla, were successful. This not only shows that people with neurodivergent tendencies aren’t that different from us, but they can become important in the development of the world, contributing to the science and technology sectors.
Still, what are some common challenges for neurodiverse workers?
Fighting the stigma continues even in the 21st century and will most likely keep going for a while. Unfortunately, “normal” people, or neurotypicals, are making wrong and rude assumptions and leading to an unsuitable work environment, hindering the strive for companies to be inclusive.
These people are at risk of discrimination frequently, especially when they’ve just been hired. This is also why many of them hide their conditions in fear of being bullied, for example. While this can add to increased stress, other factors might be responsible for the development of the worst work environment.
Although neurodivergent people are incredibly creative, productive and proactive, a few aspects of their conditions might lead to increased distractibility, hyperactivity and sensorimotor difficulties. Together, these occurrences can trigger workplace accidents and uncomfortable situations that need to be managed in accordance to their needs.
Hiring neurodivergent people within a company has plenty of benefits, such as competitive advantage, a diverse workforce and more creativity, attention and problem-solving skills, for example, projects. Still, as a business, you need to be wary of their needs.
How to transform your office to being neurodivergent-friendly
All employees need decent conditions to perform their work properly, so neurodivergent workers are the same in this matter. However, there are some aspects in which you have to be especially interested to provide them with a safe space for development. The first step is learning everything relevant about people’s conditions to give them the best conditions.
One of the most prevalent challenges for neurodivergent workers is getting distracted by almost anything. While this is actual for neurotypicals, too, distractions are dangerous for people with ADHD or autism. Certain noises, smells, and lights can trigger strong reactions of anger and even headaches. Therefore, learn what usually bothers your future employees and change the workplace setting.
At the same time, tasks should come with clear and concise instructions (just like for neurotypical workers). Using technology can help managers provide insight into the assignment’s purpose and its deadline in a manner that appeals to their way of understanding things, for which you may need to communicate with them to learn more.
Most of the time, neurodivergent employees are better off working from home. Still, if your company policy doesn’t align with a hybrid or WFH method, you can create a dedicated space for them to work when feeling overwhelmed. This should be a quiet space that is out of people’s sight but still in the office, so when they’ve charged their batteries, coming back to the task will be a piece of cake.
Training neurotypical employees to respect their co-workers
It may sound weird to train the other workers about the needs of their colleagues, but you’ll be surprised at how people view neurodiversity and how limited their knowledge is. Neurotypical people are reluctant to engage with these people. Still, with proper training and an expanded understanding of the topic, anyone can welcome neurodivergent people with open arms within a workplace.
The leading manager should hold a few meetings to discuss the complexity of a specific concern, provide recommendations on keeping a quiet level of noise in the workplace, and also make sure to include their co-workers during projects requiring everyone to contribute with their skills. At the same time, neurotypical employees should know to allow their neurodivergent peers to rest and not disturb them with unnecessary remarks. Sometimes, this category of people only needs a quiet space and no one around them, and everyone should respect that.
What’s your take on neurodiversity in the workplace?
Workplaces evolved in a way that eliminates anyone who’s slightly different. But as years unfold and we see how companies are wronging numerous categories of people, we’ve come to understand that offices need to implement more diversity. This brings multiple benefits in the workplace and reinforces a better and more knowledgeable society.