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The importance of building a neurodivergent workplace

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The importance of building a neurodivergent workplace

Just as our faces, bodies and fingerprints are all completely different, so are our brains.

Every single human brain is stitched together with intricate wiring, it’s like we have our very own neurological algorithms, unique just to us.

Ultimately, this leads to one overarching outcome, we don’t all think the same.

And to be honest, the world would be a very strange place if we did.

For a long time, workplaces accommodated employees with a one-size-fits-all solution, this led to several marginalisations and negative stereotyping. People with dyslexia ‘needed glasses’ and individuals with ADHD were ‘bad at time management.'

Traditionally, workplaces were designed to accommodate all employees as ‘neurotypical’ people. Luckily, we've turned this ancient style of working on its head, and workplaces take responsibility in making sure neurodiverse individuals feel safe and comfortable at work.

Every brain is unique

There is no one-size-fits-all way of working. Some brains are wired in a way that requires other accommodations, and employers have a responsibility to uphold these accommodations.

Neurodivergent training doesn’t necessarily put all these thinking differences in black and white boxes. Each neurodiverse brain is unique, so personalised working adjustments will be unique too.

Author Nick Walker defines neurodivergent as “having a mind that functions in ways which diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of ‘normal’.”  

It’s not really a conversation that existed 20 years ago. Thankfully, we’re learning more and more about neurodivergent brains and applying this knowledge to build working environments that are open and inclusive for all.

The conversation around building neurodivergent working cultures has ballooned massively, and to great effect.

Building a more neurodiverse working environment will lead to growth

"Neurodiversity may be the birthplace of some of humanity's greatest minds," says writer Harvey Blume.

And it’s true. Neurodiverse people tend to think outside of the box. Building an environment in which these brains can truly thrive means we can conjure up innovative and creative solutions that help not only the individual thrive and excel, but the business too.

Embracing our thinking differences fleshes out varied and diverse thinking patterns.

Why it's important to build a neurodivergent workplace

CIPD says 20% of people consider themselves to be neurodivergent.

That means 1 in 5 of your employees are going to benefit from personalised adjustments to their working environment.

Fostering neurodivergent workplaces isn’t just morally correct, or courteous, it's law.

Plus, it...

  • Enhances employee morale
  • Builds up your reputation as an inclusive employer
  • Proves to your clients, customers, partners and stakeholders that you’re educated in neurodivergence
  • Increases productivity by playing to individual strengths
  • Widens your bracket of talent and capabilities
  • Improves problem-solving
  • Diversifies perspectives and creates an open dialogue around neurodiversity
  • Creates a comfortable working environment

How to build a neurodivergent-friendly environment

Building and supporting neurodiversity at work is all about creating an environment where neurodivergent individuals can thrive. It’s about creating an inclusive environment where individuals with diverse neurological conditions, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and others, are comfortable and safe at work.

It's all about making adjustments to suit the individual.

By doing this, your business is fully recognising and valuing the different ways staff think, learn and work.  

So, how can you build more neurodivergent workplace culture?

As an employer, you can...

  • Adjust your recruitment processes
  • Educate your team
  • Offer accessible neurodiversity training
  • Check your tech
  • Open the dialogue around neurodiversity

Adjust recruitment processes

Accommodating neurodiversity should happen from the get-go. This means throwing the traditional interview style out the window.

For individuals with autism, for example - you might offer their first day to be working from home rather than on site. Perhaps they'd attend work slightly earlier before the rest of the team arrive so that you can help them adjust to the working environment.

It might mean wording your emails in a very clear and literal way, without any corporate jargon or vague wording.

This might mean offering written or recorded instructions for interviews, or considering work trials instead of traditional sit down interviews. It might mean holding singular interviews instead of group interviews for those who struggle meeting a group of new people at once.

Whatever the adjustment, speak with the individual to come up with a solution that accommodates them, and that they are comfortable with.

Educate, educate, educate

Learning about neurodiversity isn't just for HR. If your team aren't fed the same neurodiversity training, then how will they function better as a team?

Start by educating your team about what neurodiversity means. Cover neurodiverse thinking behaviours like ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and others. Share how these differences can bring unique strengths to a team. Focus on how your team can work effectively with one another, so that everyone is working as a team.

Understanding this will smoothen communications between your team members, and help create a more comfortable working environment for neurodivergent people.

Make training accessible

Hold training sessions about neurodiversity. Take the time to learn about these processes, and how your environment can be more accommodating for those who are neurodiverse.  

Make your training accessible for everyone. Make sure that information around neurodiversity is easy to access.

Check your tech

Invest in technology that can help neurodiverse employees thrive. For those with dyslexia, this could be speech-to-text software, or using screens that are designed to help dyslexic people understand text easier.

For those with ADHD, it might mean apps that help organise workloads or personalised calendars with automated reminders. It could mean getting some noise-cancelling headphones for someone who is easily distracted.

Again, work with the individual to see what you can provide for them.

Open the dialogue

You want all your employees to feel a sense of belonging at work, so create a culture where employees feel comfortable discussing their needs. Check in regularly, to understand what accommodations might be helpful.

Personalising accommodations and creating a comfortable workplace is an ongoing part of your employee's working life with your business.

Personalise and accommodate for all

Be adaptable. Building neurodiversity at work is all about recognising unique individual differences. Neurodiversity is a spectrum, and no two thinking patterns are going to be exactly the same.

Building this environment is all about personalising your workplace to help individuals feel safe and comfortable at work, because ultimately, everyone should feel comfortable at work.

Being a neurodiversity-friendly workplace means you're creating a culture where both your employees and your business can thrive.


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