Neurodiversity is a term that describes the variation in neurological differences. It comprises ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and other conditions. An estimated 15–20% of the population is neurodivergent. Hence, workplaces need to understand how to support these individuals effectively.
According to a study conducted by the National Autistic Society, only 16% of autistic people are in full-time employment. And only 32% are in some form of paid work. This shows that there is a significant gap in the hiring and retention of neurodivergent employees in the workplace. They have faced significant challenges in the workplace. This can be in the stages of the hiring process, in the lack of accommodations, or in the understanding of employers.
However, in recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the value of neurodiversity in the workplace. It is observed that these people can bring unique strengths and different perspectives to the workplace. Even if they fall behind in social skills, they come with strong problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and creativity.
Unfortunately, despite this growing recognition, many organizations still struggle to give neurodiverse candidates equal opportunities and accommodate them fully. In this blog post, we will explore some ways to embrace neurodiversity in the workplace. Thus, creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for all employees.
Why it’s Important
Creating an inclusive and supportive work environment for neurodivergent workers is significant as it can benefit both employees and the organization. By embracing neurodiversity, companies can increase their diversity of thought, innovation, and problem-solving. Studies prove that neurodivergent individuals also bring a unique perspective to the workplace. They have skills that are in high demand, such as attention to detail and analytical thinking.
Embracing neurodiversity in the workplace is not only the right thing to do but also good for business. Research indicates that companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion tend to be more:
Organizations that are more inclusive gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. The main reason can be:
- Being able to tap into a largely untapped talent pool.
- Providing necessary support and accommodations for neurodivergent professionals.
In contrast, organizations that fail to do so may lose valuable human resources and face potential legal and reputational risks.
In the following sections, we’ll explore some practical ways to embrace neurodiversity in the workplace. Let’s dive in to learn how employers can create a more inclusive environment for all employees.
1. Raise Awareness Among Your Team
One of the essential steps to embracing neurodiversity is to educate and raise awareness among your team. It is crucial to help employees understand what neurodiversity is, its effects, and the benefits of an inclusive workplace. This can be achieved through training sessions, workshops, or information sessions.
Companies should offer neurodiversity awareness training as part of the:
- Onboarding process
- Other training sessions throughout the year
- This helps staff members build a safe space for disabled people and people with neurodivergent conditions.
Employers should also ensure that transparent policies on neurodiversity are in place, such as:
- Ensuring reasonable adjustments are made to accommodate neurodiverse individuals swiftly and efficiently.
- Putting plans in place to identify areas for development.
For instance, Microsoft has created a Disability Employee Resource Group. It aims to support employees with disabilities, including neurodivergent workers. These groups provide a platform to share experiences, connect with peers, and educate everyone within the organization.
2. Offer Support, Mentors, and Career Development Opportunities
Neurodiverse individuals feel valued and supported in the organization when they’re mentored. Mentors do not just offer guidance and support on specific tasks. They also provide feedback and help develop special skills too. Additionally, career development opportunities can help neurodivergent individuals, leading to improved retention rates.
For instance, Ernst & Young has a program called Neurodiversity Centers of Excellence. It’s aimed at providing support and resources for neurodivergent people. The program provides:
- Mentorship opportunities
- Career development support, and
- Accommodations tailored to each individual’s needs
3. Be Inclusive With Your Language
Language is powerful for creating an inclusive workspace. It’s essential to use language that is respectful and considerate of all employees. This can help in creating a positive and supportive environment. One must also avoid negative language and stereotypes.
When referring to people with an autism spectrum disorder or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, it is necessary to:
- Be respectful
- Ask questions, and
- Listen to their preferences
This is important because not everyone has the same preferences. For example, some neurodiverse populations may prefer “person first” phrasing, like “a person with autism,” because their neurodiversity is not what defines them.
Others may prefer “identity first” phrasing. For example, “an autistic person.” Because they embrace their difference and consider them as an important aspect of their identity, however, this does not mean those who prefer the former do not embrace their neurodiversity. It is just a matter of personal preferences.
Identity-first language is most widespread in the autistic community, but preferences differ. Therefore, it is essential to ask questions to know a person’s preference and be mindful of using language that is more respectful of their strengths and challenges.
It is no secret that people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other identities within the LGBTQ+ spectrum often face unique challenges in their lives. In addition to the usual stressors and difficulties that all people experience, they...
4. Reexamine Your Hiring Process
The hiring process can be challenging for neurodiverse talent. Traditional hiring practices may not be accommodating to individuals who have different communication styles or learning difficulties.
Hence, it’s essential to reexamine your hiring process to ensure that it’s inclusive and accommodating. This can include:
- Providing alternative approaches to apply. This can include allowing candidates to submit videos instead of written applications.
- Offering reasonable accommodation during the interview process. This may include allowing extra time or providing a quiet space to the candidates. It levels the playing field for all candidates.
- Consider making changes to the selection criteria.
- Avoid asking job seekers or workers about their disabilities or the nature and severity of their conditions.
- Also, don’t ask a job seeker or employee to undergo a medical examination before making a job offer.
- Additionally, consider partnering with organizations that specialize in neurodiverse hiring. These organizations can provide valuable support and resources in this matter.
For example, “Autism at Work” by JPMorgan Chase provides employment opportunities for neurodiverse people. The program includes an alternative interview process, job coaching, and accommodations tailored to each individual’s needs.
5. Provide Accommodations for Employees
Providing workplace accommodations for neurodiverse employees can significantly enhance their performance and well-being. Accommodations can vary depending on the individual’s needs. It’s essential to work with employees to determine their specific needs and provide accommodations that work for them.
Here are some different ways of providing accommodations that may be beneficial for a neurodiverse workforce:
- Flexible Scheduling: Offer part-time or remote work options for those who struggle with regular hours.
- Sensory Accommodations: For those with sensory processing difficulties, provide:
- Noise-canceling headphones
- Adjustable lighting, or
- A quiet workplace
- Communication Accommodations: Accommodate different communication needs such as:
- Written communication
- Extra time to process information, or
- Simplified language
- Task Accommodations: Break down complex tasks into smaller parts. Provide written instructions or visual aids.
- Assistive Technology: Provide assistive technology such as text-to-speech software or organizational tools like reminders or task lists.
By providing these accommodations, you can help neurodiverse workers feel supported and valued.
For instance, the software company SAP has implemented a program called “Autism at Work.” It provides a variety of accommodations for neurodiverse employees. These accommodations can include sensory-friendly workspaces, communication apps, and flexible work arrangements.
6. Create a Supportive Company Culture
Creating a supportive company culture is essential for all employees. But it’s even more so for neurodivergent people. A supportive company culture is one where individuals feel valued, respected, and encouraged to be their authentic selves. Here are some ways to create a supportive company culture:
- Foster open communication: Encourage honest and respectful communication among all employees.
- Promote diversity and inclusion: Create a workplace where individuals of all backgrounds feel welcome and valued.
- Offer training and education: Provide training to increase awareness and understanding of neurodiversity.
- Recognize and accommodate differences: Offer flexible work arrangements and accommodations. Additionally, be open to different communication styles.
- Lead by example: Listen actively, and show respect and empathy towards all employees. Also, model inclusive behaviors.
By creating an inclusive environment, you can:
- Improve employee morale
- Increase productivity, and
- Promote a positive workplace culture
The consulting firm PwC has implemented a program focused on creating a more inclusive workplace. The program includes a variety of initiatives, including training sessions and mentorship opportunities. It also fosters communication channels for all employees to share their experiences.
Consult With a Trusted Therapist on DocVita Today
If you’re an employer or employee seeking support or guidance on embracing neurodiversity in the workplace, consider consulting with a trusted therapist. A therapist can provide insight and strategies on the subject. They’ll guide you in creating a supportive work environment that accommodates the needs of a neurodivergent person.
At DocVita, you can find qualified therapists specializing in neurodiversity and workplace accommodations. The medical providers at DocVita deliver tools and techniques to navigate the workplace environment more effectively. They can help you better manage any challenges or barriers while promoting self-care and overall well-being.
Together, it’s possible to create a more inclusive and supportive world for everyone. Book an appointment today!