How to best support neurodiversity and neurodiverse employees at your company

Supporting neurodiversity in the workplace is not just about inclusion, it's about recognising and valuing the unique strengths and perspectives that neurodiverse individuals bring to the table. In this article, we'll outline how to create a truly neuro-inclusive organisation.

4
min read
Published
28/5/2024

Neurodiversity refers to the different ways that we perceive and interact with the world. Supporting neurodiversity in the workplace is not just about inclusion, it's about recognising and valuing the unique strengths and perspectives that neurodiverse individuals bring to the table. There are tons of advantages of neurodiversity - by creating an inclusive work environment, organisations can give space for neurodivergent employees to express their full potential, allowing them to gain a competitive edge.

In a nutshell, creating a workplace that is inclusive and supportive of different ways of thinking is beneficial not only for those people who don’t process information in the “typical” way, but also for our workplaces, improving creativity and innovation.

65% of neurodivergent employees fear discrimination from management

45% of neurodivergent people have lost or left their job because of challenges due to being misunderstood.

In this article, we'll outline how to create a truly neuro-inclusive organisation.

What do we mean by neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity advocates celebrating neurological differences. It is estimated that 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodiverse. Neurodivergent people include those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia (also known as developmental co-ordination disorder) and dyscalculia.

There are other examples of how our brains process information differently which are sometimes considered to fall under the neurodiversity umbrella, like cognitive functioning difficulties or executive dysfunction, dysgraphia, stammering, and Tourette’s syndrome.

These conditions often occur together and many of their symptoms overlap. Importantly, neurodivergent people can offer unique perspectives and enhance teams.

What does a neuro-inclusive organisation look like?

A neuro-inclusive organisation actively embraces and supports neurodiverse employees, creating an environment where everyone can thrive regardless of their neurological differences. In this kind of workplace, policies, practices, and cultures are designed to recognise and accommodate a range of differences, making sure that neurodivergent individuals feel valued and understood.

Key characteristics of a neuro-inclusive organisation include:

- Flexible work arrangements that cater to individual needs
- Clear and consistent communication styles
- Sensory-friendly environments
- Training and awareness programmes for all employees
- Robust support systems, including mentoring and reasonable adjustments

Offering neurodiversity support that actually works for everyone is key to a neuro-inclusive organisation, and Fertifa offers this and more. Through Fertifa, your employees will have access to educational resources, created and curated by medical experts on the most complicated and common neurodiversity challenges, as well as access to video calls with our in-house clinical team. Our team can also refer neurodivergent employees for diagnostic or screening assessments via our dedicated partner. If you're interested in implementing neurodiversity support at your company, give us a call here!

How to best support neurodiversity at your company

Get neurodiversity on your organisation's agenda

To start, make neurodiversity a priority on your organisation’s agenda. This means committing at all levels, from executive leadership to entry-level positions, to fostering an inclusive culture that values neurodivergent employees.

1. Leadership commitment: Make sure that people in leadership roles are educated about neurodiversity and its benefits by training staff and appointing neurodiversity champions. If you’re neurodivergent yourself, you might consider sharing your story with others around you – even if you’re not an expert on the topic!

2. Policy development: Develop and implement policies that specifically support neurodiverse colleagues.

3. Regular reviews: Continuously review and improve these policies based on feedback from neurodiverse employees.

Recognise the strengths of neurodivergent individuals

Neurodivergent individuals often have unique skills and perspectives that can be incredibly valuable in the workplace. For instance, autistic people may have exceptional attention to detail, while others with ADHD might excel in creative thinking and problem-solving.

1. Strength-based approach: Focus on the strengths and talents that neurodivergent staff bring to the team.

2. Tailored roles: Create roles or tasks that leverage these strengths for mutual benefit.

Create a workplace culture that is supportive of neurodiversity

Cultivating an inclusive culture where neurodiverse individuals feel welcomed and valued is so important. This means creating an environment where differences are celebrated rather than merely tolerated.

1. Inclusion training: Provide regular training sessions to educate neurotypical employees on how to speak about neurodiverse conditions in the workplace. It's important for all employees to have an awareness of neurodiversity.

2. Positive language: Encourage the use of positive, respectful language when discussing neurological differences. Lots of neurodivergent people see their neurodivergence as a fundamental part of themselves, so using positive language is crucial. Remember you can just ask somebody how they like to be described.

3. Inclusive hiring process: Inclusive hiring practices could look like explicitly expressing that neurodiverse people are welcome to apply and offering neurodivergent applicants the possibility of adjusting the interview process. It may be necessary to find a different way to assess neurodiverse candidates, if that’s what will work best for them, like doing away with the formal interview structure altogether. Companies should also be reviewing their onboarding process and making sure it's as inclusive as possible for neurodiverse talent.

Build awareness and understanding of neurodiversity

Awareness and understanding are the foundations of an inclusive work environment. Educating all employees about neurodiversity helps build empathy and reduces stigma.

1. Workshops and seminars: Offer educational workshops to inform employees about different neurological conditions, like autism spectrum disorder (also known as autism spectrum condition).

2. Resource library: It's a good idea to create a resource library with materials about neurodiversity for employees to access. This might sit on your online hub/portal. You could also partner with a company like Fertifa, which has a full library of educational resources you can offer your employees, curated and created by our in-house experts.

Provide accommodations and reasonable adjustments for neurodivergent staff

Accommodations are key to supporting neurodivergent employees effectively. These adjustments can range from minor changes to significant modifications, depending on individual needs.

1. Flexible work arrangements: Allow flexible hours or remote working options to accommodate different working styles. Flexible work patterns could look like allowing people to take extra breaks, work shifts, or specific hours.

2. Tailored tools and resources: Provide assistive technologies and other resources that can help neurodiverse employees perform their jobs effectively. These will vary according to each person’s requirements, and ascertaining individual needs is key. Examples include providing assistive technology such as speech-to-text software, quiet spaces in the office, and noise-cancelling headphones.

Use clear communication

Clear and consistent communication is vital in a neuro-inclusive workplace. This helps make sure that all employees understand their tasks and expectations, reducing misunderstandings and stress.

1. Direct instructions: Use straightforward language, rather than figurative language or idioms, and avoid ambiguity in instructions and feedback. You can also break down complex information, and provide visual aids like diagrams or illustrations. More generally, introducing clearer styles of communication (both written and verbal), clarifying workplace guidelines, and giving advance notice about plan changes can be helpful not just for neurodiverse employees, but for everybody!

2. Regular check-ins: Implement regular one-on-one check-ins to provide clarity and support.

Create a sensory-friendly work environment for neurodivergent colleagues

Sensory sensitivities are common among neurodivergent individuals. Creating a sensory-friendly work environment can significantly enhance their comfort and productivity.

1. Quiet zones: Designate quiet areas where employees can work without sensory overload.

2. Adjustable lighting: Provide adjustable lighting options to cater to different sensory needs.

Offer mentoring and support

Mentoring and support systems can really benefit neurodivergent employees, helping them navigate the workplace and develop their careers.

1. Mentorship programmes: If possible within your company, pair neurodivergent employees with mentors who understand their unique challenges and strengths.

2. Peer support groups: Establish support groups where neurodiverse individuals can share experiences and advice. If neurodivergent staff can share their lived experience in supportive environments, it will help neurotypical people to understand where they're coming from and what they might be going through.

Supporting neurodiversity in the workplace involves a commitment to understanding, accommodating, and valuing neurodiverse employees. By implementing these strategies, organisations can create an inclusive environment where neurodivergent people feel valued and empowered to contribute their best work. This not only enhances the wellbeing of neurodivergent team members but also leverages neurodivergent talent to drive innovation and success.

Inclusivity is not just a tick-box exercise, it's about building a workplace environment and implementing support that actually works for everyone.

If you’re looking to speak to someone in our team about neurodiversity support for your employees, get in touch with us using the button below. We'd love to chat! 💜