Accommodating and Celebrating Neurodiversity in the Workplace

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace is the latest priority on HR’s ever-growing agenda. And while an inclusive culture might consider diversity in gender, race and physical disabilities, neurodiverse conditions like ADHD and Autism are often stigmatised and misunderstood.

When you consider that around 15% to 20% of the population is thought to be neurodivergent, this lack of knowledge can mean that neurodiverse employees can feel unsupported in the workplace, fail to thrive in their careers, or worse still, struggle to find employment at all. According to recent figures, neurodiverse people are 30-40% more likely to be unemployed than those with a ‘regular’ or visible disability, this is despite the fact that they are 30% more productive than neurotypical employees, and less likely to make basic errors.

Despite the benefits that these individuals bring to an organisation when it comes to ADHD accommodations in the workplace, many businesses are failing their employees. The reality is that most companies have a greater number of neurodiverse staff than they realise, as most of them have not disclosed their conditions or remain undiagnosed. Instead, they simply try to avoid the situations that they find challenging.

What is neurodiversity?

In layman’s terms, neurodiversity refers to the neurological differences in how the brain functions. This could be in how people think, process information and communicate and could manifest in ways such as finding it hard to concentrate on specific tasks, having difficulty communicating, or finding it tough to participate in social workplace activities. While autism, ADHD, and dyslexia are the most common forms of neurodivergence other conditions such as Tourette’s syndrome, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and even epilepsy can fall under the umbrella term of neurodiversity.

ADHD workplace accommodations

People with ADHD for example, find noises and interruptions in the workplace particularly distracting and cannot filter them out like neurotypical people. This means that it can be hard to pay attention to specific tasks. The Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) suggests making some ADHD workplace accommodations such as permitting the use of earphones for listening to music or white noise or using the voicemail function to record messages and then respond to them at specific times in the day to avoid feeling overwhelmed. These small ADHD workplace adjustments can help employees better manage their time, environment, and workload, and thus ensure they maximise their career potential.

From an organisational point of view, the ADHD at Work Association advises businesses to provide designated workspaces where neurodivergent employees can focus on their work without distractions. This might mean organising a private office, allowing them to take work home, or even arranging times for them to work alone in the office. These can have a huge impact on an individual with ADHD’s productivity and engagement.

Similarly, an employee with a neurodiverse condition may need flexible work hours to accommodate their need for breaks throughout the day. While each person is unique, it’s a matter of seeing what strategies work best for them. These simple and often easy-to-implement ADHD workplace accommodations can really help employees excel in their careers.

Celebrating neurodiverse colleagues

Rather than feel like neurodiverse employees are different, or problematic, seeing them as bringing a unique range of skills to the workplace can help reframe the perception of neurodiversity as a negative and instead build a more inclusive organisational culture. For a start, people with these neurological differences are often skilled in things like data analysis, problem-solving and pattern recognition— talents which are particularly suited to careers in technology, finance, cybersecurity and others.

Focusing on the positive elements of neurodiverse colleagues and educating the workforce on the benefits they bring to an organisation will help to shape the DEI policy and ensure that everyone can fulfil their potential and help to achieve the business’s goals. Providing training for managers on neurodiversity and flagging awareness days are simple things that HR can set up. For example, October is international ADHD Awareness month and offers the perfect time to highlight the positives of neurodiversity.

Making these ADHD workplace accommodations – and adjustments for other neurodiverse employees – can benefit the organisation as a whole, not only from a retention standpoint as employees are more likely to want to remain with the company that accommodates their specific needs, but they will perform better, produce better quality work and supporting them will inevitably reduce absenteeism in this particular demographic.

Altering elements to accommodate neurodiverse employees will help to break down the stigma surrounding neurodiversity and normalise conditions like ADHD. Ultimately, this will create an inclusive and welcoming environment where everyone can thrive and progress professionally.

To learn more about the importance of every employee’s experience in the workplace, check out our employee experience survey: