Understanding Neurodiversity at the Workplace


Diversity is the range of differences that includes, but is not limited to,to race, ethnicity, gender, and visible and invisible disabilities. Neurodiversity can be considered a type of diversity as it relates to the differences in how we think, process, learn, and behave.


Neurodiversity includes many things including having dyslexia, ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, Autism, or some other conditions. People with these conditions tend to have heightened creativity, better organizational skills, an increase in attention to detail and out-of-the-box thinking. However, they can also experience challenges related to time management, speed, and team-work.


One in five people in the workforce are neurodiverse. However, organizations have yet to make positive strides in creating neurodiverse-inclusive workplaces. Unlike schools, which have trained teachers to identify students with neurodiverse needs , workplaces are oblivious to the challenges faced by such employees.


For decades, neurotypical behavior has been the only acceptable behavior at the workplace. There is no blueprint for people with neurodivergence to fit into workplaces that have been traditionally set-up for neurotypical people. This has forced many people with neurodiversity to hide their diagnosis from their employers because they fear being treated differently. These employees undergo immense stress as they end up spending hours everyday masking their emotions to fit in with the crowd: which, in turn, impacts their mental health adversely.


So, how can organizations change the status quo and create a neurodivergent-friendly work environment?


A Welcoming Culture


Employers should create awareness campaigns about neurodiversity. They should maximize the potential of internal communication in educating their employees. This will have a two-fold impact – neurotypical employees will be sensitized about the needs and challenges faced by their colleagues and employees with neurodiversity will feel seen, heard, and understood: giving them the confidence to be their authentic selves at work.


Engaging Expert Opinion


Neurodiversity is a sensitive and complex subject. Employers should onboard subject-matter experts to help incorporate neurodivergent-friendly practices into existing processes. Educating employees from the get-go during recruitment and onboarding is recommended. Sharing details about being a neurodivergent-friendly workplace will also encourage prospective employees to be open about their diagnosis, if any. Companies should also engage experts to train managers to become more aware of the needs of certain employees and teach them how to identify the employees’ core skills and bring them to the forefront.


Employee Resource Groups


Create and promote Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for the neurodivergent community. This provides a safe space for them to share their experiences and challenges. Learning about genuine issues faced by these employees through their stories will accelerate positive changes. Using an ERG management platform can simplify the process of joining ERGs and provide an option for employees who want to be allies to join the ERGs to support their colleagues and educate themselves.


Inclusive Workspaces


A workplace that is open and flexible to how the end-goal is reached empowers employees with neurodiversity. Some organizations have set processes with complex steps for certain tasks. This can be overwhelming for some of these individuals as they tend to approach problem-solving in unique ways. Employers can create neuro-inclusive workplaces by using software solutions that promote visual and non-visual representations of complex projects. This allows neurotypical and neurodivergent employees to collaborate more effectively. Apart from technology interventions, the physical workplace should also be designed with experts to minimize sensory triggers and distractions. Remote work and private workstations should also be provided as an option.


By creating and nurturing workspaces that are diverse and inclusive, employers are helping their most valuable asset – their employees – thrive and grow. The future is diverse and inclusive. Is your organization future-ready?


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