In this article, we explore neurodiversity in the workplace and provide advice on how you can support your employees.
What do we mean by ‘neurodiversity’?
“Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one “right” way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits” Harvard Medical School.
The word neurodiversity refers to the diversity of all people, but it is often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as other neurological or developmental conditions such as ADHD or learning disabilities.
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Neurodiversity is moving up the organisation agenda for two reasons. With the business case for diversity now accepted, organisations aiming to be truly inclusive employers cannot exclude such a significant demographic as the neurodivergent. To continue doing so risks missing out on talent, and compromising on productivity and customer trust.
Neurodiversity may be one of the most challenging areas within diversity and inclusion – complex, nuanced, and often invisible – yet it offers a business upside in this context: given that neurodivergent people literally think differently (CIPD).
Neurodiversity in the Workplace
It’s likely that you may have employees who don’t identify themselves with the characteristics of autism, ADHD or dyslexia however they are displaying signs and maybe they are struggling with their work. How do you broach this with them?
You may also have employees who can identify with the characteristics or they may have had a formal assessment and they do not want to tell you. How do you create a safe space for conversations to be held?
You may have employees who have informed the organisation of their formal assessment or that they identify with the characterises – how do you support them?
Here are some first steps you can take.
The first is to ensure a culture that allows all employees to bring their authentic self to work and allows individuals to talk to you about their characteristics.
For individuals who may not have actively said they recognise the characteristics but have performance issues that may be connected with neurodiversity characteristics (i.e. attention to detail is lacking, an individual may not be able to focus in a busy office, inconsistent timekeeping), consider how you broach this with the individual. We know that many people ‘fear’ having these conversations as they don’t know what to say or are afraid of saying ‘the wrong thing’.
In order to support conversations and feel comfortable in doing so, consider training for your leaders and managers. There are a lot of providers offering this and we can provide some options. Ensuring that there is an active understanding across the board of neurodiversity is important.
Review your HR processes, for example, look at your recruitment campaign and ask “how can we make this more neuro-inclusive?”
Ask these questions to your employee: How can we help you? How can we help you to thrive? What do you need in the workplace? These are great questions and a good starting point, but particularly for those individuals who have just been diagnosed or who are going through a diagnostic process on this journey by themselves, they often won’t know.
Therefore consider an individual health assessment with an Occupational Health provider who can provide tailored advice. Everyone is different and will have different needs.
Advice from Occupational Health
We spoke to an Occupational Health provider recently about one of our clients’ employees who has been diagnosed with ADHD, and they gave this advice:
- Provide extra time for the employee to carry out duties that require multitasking and prioritising, we recommend at least 25% extra time.
- Provide instructions in a concise written manner ahead of the task. Employees with ADHD can struggle to absorb verbal instruction. Ensure open communication – discuss issues are they occur, don’t let the issues build up so that they become overwhelming for the individual.
- Consider contacting Access to Work. The Occupational Health provider can provide supporting letters to help applications. An example of support is for employees with dyslexia who have to read and write documents in a timely manner, Access to Work may be able to fund writing and reading software such as Dragon and Grammarly.
As we said earlier, this concerned one individual and advice needs to be tailored for each individual.
What to know more about how you can focus on neurodiversity in the workplace? Please get in touch.