Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Neurodiversity refers to the range of differences in human brain function and behavioural traits with the emphasis on these divergences being seen in a positive context. It is estimated that 15% to 20% population are neurodivergent which will translate into the workplace and large companies are now seeing the benefits of neurodivergent workforce – Amazon, JPMorgan, Google, Ford and Microsoft to name a few – as they recognise that hiring individuals with strengths differing from those from ‘neurotypical’ people broadens the company’s skillset, so much so, that they are actively promoting inclusivity through targeted recruitment initiatives.

Hiring a more diverse workforce will have implications for the workspace. Not all neurodivergent workers consider themselves disabled and have the right to consider themselves as such or not as they wish, however under the Equality Act 2010 it is likely that they meet the legal definition of disability of ‘physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’ meaning employers are obliged to ‘make sure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, aren’t substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs’. With this in mind, they are therefore entitled to reasonable adjustments.

As neurodiversity in the workplace covers a considerable range of conditions from autism to dyspraxia which are not necessarily mutually exclusive, this is not a one-size-fits-all situation and reasonable adjustments must be made based on the individual however there are some common barriers that can prevent neurodivergent people from performing to the best of their ability. This is something that our design team at 3-Space take into consideration when creating a workspace for a diverse workforce. Such adjustments can include the following resolutions. Lighting can be adjusted as bright, unnatural lights can be distracting to the individual and potentially cause sensory overload. This can be overcome by placing those affected away from such lighting with more exposure to daylight where possible. Noise is also a potential barrier, creating issues similar to bright lighting, as it can cause distractions. Simple solutions include placing the affected employee placing in a quieter part of the office or building a private office for them and providing them with headphones to minimise the noise. Having the right equipment can make a considerable difference or specific instructions on how to use equipment will negate any ambiguity, lessening any anxiety that could be associated with unfamiliar equipment.

Essentially these are simple adjustments that can be made to the workplace to accommodate those with additional requirements. The key to identifying the need for modifications is through the onboarding process which will ascertain as to whether reasonable adjustments can be made to improve a person’s productivity and take advantage of their skillset. Additionally, awareness and training for everyone encourages acceptance of neurodiversity in the workplace and inspires an open culture. Ultimately the end goal is an inclusive environment which maximises the potential of everyone.

If you would like further information as to how we can help your organisation in designing with neurodiversity in mind, please get in touch.