Whether it’s scrolling through your Linkedin feed or reading a recent company report, neurodiversity is a term you’ve no doubt heard more of in recent years. And if in a professional sense, may have left you wondering – What IS neurodiversity in the workplace?
Put simply, ‘neurodiversity’ is a word used to explain the unique ways people’s brains work. You may have heard of ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, and Dyslexia, which are all neurodiverse conditions.
Neurodiversity is nothing new. People’s brains have worked differently since the beginning of time. But thankfully in recent years, awareness and support for neurodiversity has soared. As a result, places like schools and workplaces need to learn more about neurodiversity and most importantly, what they can do help their students and employees thrive.
For those employers still scratching their heads, asking ‘what is neurodiversity in the workplace?’ we’re sharing our three pillars of neurodiversity. These are drawn from learnings from our hugely popular and insightful workshop, Nurturing the Superpower of Neurodiversity workshop.
Acknowledging and understanding that we all think differently
It is estimated that 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent. That’s over 15% of the population who’s brains work in a different way to the other 85%. Considering this is such a significant proportion of the population, it’s integral that we embrace and celebrate the unique diversity of everyone’s minds. We all have a responsibility to acknowledge that neurodivergent brains differ from neurotypical brains – and encompass a broad range of cognitive abilities and ways of processing
Historically, traditional school and working patterns favour neuro-typical individuals. Yet recently, greater understanding of neurodiversity and the accommodations neurodiverse individuals need to thrive are gaining momentum from the classroom to the workplace.
Celebrating and championing neurodiversity
Employers that recognise and embrace neurodiversity can leverage these unique skills and strengths to gain a competitive advantage.
JP Morgan & Chase’s Autism at Work program found autistic employees “48% faster and up to 92% more productive than their non-autistic counterparts – with common factors including strong visual acuity, attention to detail, and a superior ability to focus.”
Studies have shown that neurodiverse individuals can excel in certain fields such as technology, data analysis, and engineering. These individuals often have an exceptional ability to focus on tasks and can process complex information at a rapid pace. They also tend to be highly detail-oriented, which can be a significant advantage in industries that require precise work, such as accounting or software development.
Attributes that Microsoft no doubt recognise. Microsoft is one of the most prominent companies that have been at the forefront of promoting neurodiversity. They have an autism hiring program called Microsoft Autism Hiring Program that aims to create opportunities for people with autism to pursue careers in the technology industry.
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs Neurodiversity Hiring Initiative, an eight-week paid internship program for people who identify as neurodivergent, aims to empower and integrate neurodiverse people into our workplace.
Thankfully today we don’t have to look far to find inspiring neurodiverse people in business. Proudly dyslexic, Richard Branson is arguably one of the most successful business of our time. Another dyslexic, Jamie Oliver enlisted our help to celebrate neurodiversity with our Neurodiversity Workshop.
Being adaptable to accommodations
With the right support, adaptions and accommodations, neurodiversity in the workplace is no barrier to producing incredible work. Here are just a handful of suggestions that can help.
Documents for Dyslexic Employees
All materials for people with dyslexia should have a clear layout, short sentences and an uncomplicated structure.
Images that exemplify sentences or unfamiliar words are really useful. By spacing out the instructions and adding a diagram, a person can follow it without having to understand every word – this is called ‘reading for meaning’.
Helping building concentration for employees with ADHD
People with ADHD tend to have a difficult time concentrating over extended periods of time. One way to help them concentrate is to break the time up into chunks and give them a visual timetable of when they should be working, how long they are expected to work and when they can relax.
They can have trouble ignoring unwanted stimuli in order to stay on task. Work colleagues can help them remove these stimuli in several ways:
– Using headphones and music to listen to while they are working on tasks at their desk.
– Reduce visual distractions such as poster and other information visible in front of them.
Helping Autistic Employees Building Relationships
People with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can find the workplace difficult for a number of reasons, generally related to difficulties with communication, social skills and sensory sensitivity. Having a positive relationship with the person is one of the best strategies available for supporting them. Strategies for helping include:
- Setting clear workplace rules
- Helping to teach social skills
- Communicating clearly and giving time to process information
- Including the buddy system and circle of friends
- Making sure you get their attention before you give instructions
- Avoiding non-literal language such as metaphors, sarcasm and idioms.
Find out more about how Stretching the City can support neurodiversity at your workplace. Click here to find out more about Neurodiversity at Work workshops.