Neurodiversity At Work: How To Protect And Support Your Colleagues and Staff

Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; There is no “right” way of thinking, learning or behaving and differences are not seen as deficits.

According to a 2022 study by My Disability Jobs, unemployment is significantly higher among neurodivergent adults. About 35% of this group is unemployed, eight times the unemployment rate for people without neurodiversity.

While neurodiverse people have always been part of our work environment, very often they have not been adequately included. Often this is due to a lack of education and understanding of what neurodiversity actually means and how it can affect and affect people in different ways.

This is an incredibly potential issue for employers, with the opportunity to increase the productivity of all employees by creating an equitable and understanding environment for all.

The topic of neurodiversity is very often still a taboo because those affected fear being branded or perceived differently. According to the latest studies, scientists assume that at least 15% of the population is neurodiverse.

Many associate neurodiversity primarily with autism and the spectrum, leaving many kinds of diversity unaddressed.

Many associate neurodiversity primarily with autism and the spectrum, leaving many types of diversity unaddressed.

Here are the most common forms of neurodiversity:

  • Learning Disabilities
  • Giftedness
  • Sensory integration disorder
  • Epilepsy
  • Auditory perception
  • OCD
  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Mental health
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Dyslexia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Dyscalculia

Even in companies for which diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are absolutely important, neurodiversity is often not treated as an issue. Other, very important topics related to diversity (race, gender, and LGBTQ+) are often discussed and taken into account here, but there is no clear communication on the topic of neurodiversity.

This trend seems to be changing now and companies like Google, Dell, SAP, Microsoft and EY are paying more and more attention to this topic (Neurodiversity Champions).

What are the benefits of a neurodiverse work environment?

Access to a larger talent pool

As the Dell example shows, making the recruitment process more accessible and thereby expanding the talent pool can bring many benefits. With its recruiting process adapted to autism, Dell has succeeded in attracting exceptionally talented specialists to the group.

Working more effectively in neurodiverse teams

According to Diversicon, neurodiverse teams work up to 30% more effectively. This is mainly due to the different working methods and analytical approach to solving problems. The higher collective intelligence and the ability to make qualitative decisions in a team play a particularly important role here.

A clear reduction in turnover

By improving the working environment, introducing clear processes and supporting neurodivergent and neurotypical employees, everyone in the company feels better understood. This greatly improves communication between everyone and employees who feel included and supported are more likely to stay with the company.

An improvement of own products and services

By making your workplace more accessible and inclusive for people with neurodiverse diversity and people with disabilities, your product or service will also become more accessible. Since you’ve done this process internally, you’ll find it easier. It will also naturally increase your awareness of the importance of improved products and services that are accessible to all.

How can we support neurodiverse people in the workplace?

Basically, it must be noted that neurodiverse people are different and that one concept alone cannot cover everything. As an employer, it is important to proactively address this topic and, in addition to reading specialist literature, to attend further training courses and exchange ideas with associations.

Here are a few tips that can be implemented immediately:

An improved recruitment process

The hiring process is often the first impression someone gets of a company, and unfortunately most hiring and interviewing processes are not very accessible to neurodiverse talent.

Common obstacles are job descriptions and the language used in them, as well as the questions asked in interviews and the way they are asked. Providing interview questions in advance can help a neurodiverse candidate adapt to the question at hand.

An improved workplace

Some employers believe that improving the workplace costs a lot of money.

In reality, small changes can already have very positive effects. It is important to listen to the employee in order to find out how the workplace should be set up in the best possible way. This can also take the form of an anonymous survey to see if employees and peers identify as neurodivergent.

Here are some examples of workplace improvement:

  • Noise canceling headphones
  • Quiet workplaces
  • Changing and adapting work tasks
  • Customization of presentations and training materials
  • Flexible working hours
  • Mentoring programs and buddy systems

Adjusted internal communication

In her article, Dorothee Haensch gives 12 helpful tips on how to improve internal communication; and it is absolutely necessary as 94% of communication professionals estimate that internal communication will become increasingly important in the coming years.

Regardless of whether it is a company presentation or daily communication in operational business, in a company with neurodivergent employees, and there is a high probability that you are such a company, communication must be adapted to all employees. For example, someone with ADHD might have trouble processing verbal instructions, so it is better to give them written instructions. Taking this into account proactively can increase your company’s success immensely.

Further training for personnel and managers

In order to be able to promote all employees appropriately, further training in the “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion” area is extremely important.

These training courses should be carried out primarily for HR departments, talent acquisition and managers with the aim of recognizing neurodiversity and formulating measures to support and integrate employees.

Thekey.Academy offers an IHK certificate for this, for example. However, you can also commission independent consultants and trainers to do this.

Here is a list of topics and questions you should definitely cover:

What is meant by neurodiversity?

How do you support people with neurodiversity?

How do we design a recruitment process that is accessible to all?

What training do our managers need in connection with diversity?

Almost 15% of our population is neurodivergent. Accordingly, it is very likely that colleagues in your company are part of this special group. As employers, colleagues and friends of this group, we are obliged to create a fair, diverse and integrated working environment in which everyone feels comfortable.

If you have any further questions on this topic, please send us a message to info@optimyzeus.com.