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Neurodiversity at work

Approximately 20% of the population is neurodiverse. In real numbers, 1 in 5 team members is neurodiverse.

Have we got your attention?

If you’re not sure which of your co-workers are neurodiverse, it’s not surprising; most people don’t even know what the word “neurodiverse” means. Let’s get down to the basics so you know how to interact with your neurodivergent colleagues. You likely work day-to-day with at least one neurodivergent colleague; however, more than half (65%) do not disclose that due to fear of discrimination. When your employees aren’t comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, their potential is compromised and the business loses out on their creativity, critical thinking skills, and resourcefulness.

Let’s be sure this doesn’t happen inside of your company.


What does it mean to be ‘neurodivergent’?

Neurodivergent was coined in 1998 by Judy Singer to recognise that everyone’s brain develops and operates in a different way. For the average individual, brain functions, behaviours and processing are expected to meet the milestones set by society for developmental growth. For those who veer either slightly, or significantly, outside of these parameters, their brain functions could be classified as neurodivergent.

Neurodivergent is a non-medical umbrella term that describes people with variation in their mental functions, and can include conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other neurological or developmental conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Judy Singer saw neurodiversity as a social justice movement to promote equality of what she called “neurological minorities” — people whose brains work in atypical ways. The main goal of the neurodiversity movement is to shine a light on the benefits of this diversity and focus on developing and appreciating the strengths and talents of our neurodivergent colleagues.

Some of the conditions that are most common among those who describe themselves as neurodivergent include:

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Down syndrome
  • Dyscalculia (difficulty with math)
  • Dysgraphia (difficulty with writing)
  • Dyslexia (difficulty with reading)
  • Dyspraxia (difficulty with coordination)
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and more
  • Prader-Willi syndrome
  • Sensory processing disorders
  • Social anxiety
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Williams syndrome


The benefits of a neurodiverse workforce

The benefits of having neurodivergent colleagues are, of course, the same as you would expect from a diverse and inclusive workplace: inclusion benefits everyone. In fact, inclusive teams are 35% more productive than non-inclusive teams. And, according to LinkedIn, diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time!

While no two people’s experience of neurodivergence will be the same, many neurodivergent individuals possess unique strengths in the following areas:

  • Memory and information processing
  • Productivity and work quality
  • Sustained attention to detail
  • High levels of stamina
  • Dependability

Further, and according to Lexxic, neurodivergent individuals are often described by their peers as hardworking, adaptive, intuitive, logical, innovative, and creative.

Your neurodiverse employees have the skills to lead the future success of your business – but this can only happen if they feel supported, included, and appreciated within the workplace. And it’s your job to help foster this environment.


Top tips on supporting your neurodiverse workforce

Top tip #1 – Education

We will never stop preaching about the importance of education within the workplace. The first step in fostering a safe and inclusive culture for your neurodiverse employees is to increase understanding and awareness amongst the entire workforce. The greater the understanding of what neurodiversity is, and how it affects people in the day-to-day, the more supportive co-workers and managers can be. But where do you begin?

Discover our brand-new eLearning courses, Neurodiversity at Work and Managing and Leading Neurodivergent Colleagues. With these courses, you can debunk common myths and misconceptions surrounding neurodiversity, and help employees to recognise the barriers that neurodivergent individuals face in traditional workplaces.

Check out our wide range of engaging and interactive off-the-shelf courses.


Top tip #2 – Create safe spaces and adjustments

Many neurodiverse employees may need adjustments to help them thrive throughout work. This could include quiet workspaces, different breaks, dynamic desk set ups, assistive technology, or perhaps even different lighting.

It’s not easy for people to come forward to ask for adjustments, so make sure they know that you and the company are happy to adjust to help them feel comfortable and successful at work. This could be in 1:1 meetings, group sessions, or even an anonymous survey. It’s the small things that can make a huge difference.


Top tip #3 – Collaboration

No two people are the same. But finding people within the same environments that have had similar experiences can be a great comfort. Why not hold group sessions for neurodiverse co-workers to get together, whether it’s to socialise, discuss what challenges they’ve overcome to support each other, and recommend adjustments within the workplace that has helped them. It’s also a great way to share knowledge and skill sets to educate others within the business.


Top tip #4 – Flexible working

These days with most desk jobs, it’s pretty unheard of to be in the office 5 days a week – hybrid and remote working is the new normal. And why is it so popular? Well, it allows your people to feel comfortable within their place of work, and provides choice over how they best work. This has great positive impacts on the health and wellbeing of employees, increasing productivity and job satisfaction.

Flexible working isn’t just about where you work, but how you work. Your employees should be able to take breaks when it best suits them and work their hours at times that are most productive for them.


Top tip #5 – Revise your HR policies

Shockingly, only 10% of HR professionals say that neurodiversity is included in their HR policies. Take the time to revise your current policies to ensure your neurodiverse employees are put at the forefront. Recognition within policies is a great step toward an inclusive culture.


Supporting your neurodiverse employees is not a one-size-fits-all situation, but recognising, educating, generating understanding and awareness, and celebrating your people is a great start to forming a safe and inclusive work environment.

Discover how you can foster an inclusive culture that celebrates your neurodiverse workforce by checking out our new courses:


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Written by Claire Moloney

Claire is an enthusiastic and meticulous content writer whose passion is to support growth and continual learning for everyone.


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