Embracing Neurodiversity at Work
Today, it is not enough for employers to say they embrace diversity. Leaders must be transparent communicators around hiring practices, how they set up an accessible workplace, and how they not just provide accommodations for neurodiverse workers (and workers with disabilities), but how they provide support and empowerment for the one in five neurodiverse employees in the labor market.
Now that many companies are bringing employees back to office spaces, it is a great time to lean in and examine inclusion at work. Leaders can and should use this time to remind employees what their accommodation policies are, and in turn, ask employees what they need. Time away from the office has given people clarity on what they need to be productive, and those accommodations should be taken into consideration.
Emerging research suggests that before the pandemic, few workers disclosed their neurodivergence to their employer. As we return to working out of our offices, there could be an increase in employees disclosing neurodivergence or disability. This increase in disclosures will mean that return to the office programs will also require greater accommodation and support of these employees.
Another realization coming out of the pandemic was that many offices did not provide flexibility for employees to work at their best. These choices are imperative for neurodiversity. Most folks with neurodiversity have trouble focusing, for example, and are set up to succeed when they have more options for workspaces like quiet areas, do not disturb policies, or even (especially?) continued work from home options.
But beyond office spaces, companies need to be mindful of their communication practices. The lack of accessibility in our society has become normalized, but again, the time is now for organizational leaders to change that. Content on digital platforms should be inclusive, accessible, and useful for everyone, not just a company’s employees. With some 70 million people nationwide with invisible differences, it seems like good business all around to make inclusion matter.
For someone with neurodiversity, shopping online or interacting on social media might be a herculean, stressful effort. Whether it is too many pages or menu options, or ads that interfere while viewing content digitally, there is an opportunity to better optimize marketing and communications for the one in five. Something as simple as making your typeface clear and distinguishable—literally “minding your p’s and q’s”—can shift the experience for folks with neurodiversity, and in turn, affect the perception of your brand.
Immediate actions to take right now involve starting conversations with the people in your organization—particularly with those who have requested accommodations. Get an understanding of what they need. Then go the extra step beyond compliance measures. Efforts such as adding closed captioning on your Zoom calls, providing pre-read materials, or providing breaks for employees who may have ADHD go a long way beyond simply supporting those with neurodiversities. These steps benefit all.
People who are not neurotypical are a part of our humanity. The fact is, one in five people are likely working with us in the workforce today has a brain that works different than the majority. A better understanding of what they are facing would improve their lives immensely. Is it time for your organization to help build a more inclusive environment for those with neurodiversity? Be a conversation starter!
Many people with neurodiverse brains share similar strengths that make them successful at work and life. Next week on the blog we will talk about some of the attributes that make neurodiverse workers an asset in the labor market.