Some differences aren’t visible to the naked eye.
And unfortunately, that means many employers aren’t aware of any neurodivergence on their team. And even if they are aware, it can be difficult for employers to know how best to support their neurodivergent team members.
However, if they take the time to learn about their employees and design a more inclusive environment for them at work, everyone will benefit — including their organization’s bottom line.
In this post, we’ll look at neurodivergence in the workplace and four simple tips to help create a more inclusive space for employers and their employees to thrive.
Let’s dive in.
What Is Neurodivergence?
Neurodivergence is a term that describes the broad spectrum of neurological differences, including autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. These differences can affect people’s ability to process information, communicate with others, and regulate their behavior.
Neurodivergent people experience the world differently than others do — some examples include:
- Difficulty with social cues and nonverbal communication
- Difficulty processing information quickly or accurately
- Difficulty with executive functions like planning, organizing, or multitasking
Some people’s brains work in a way that makes it easier for them to process information and make decisions, while other brains are organized differently and require more time and effort to learn new things.
Neurodivergent people can be misunderstood or mistreated because their brains work differently — this can cause them to feel like they don’t belong or aren’t good enough at work. It’s important to remember that neurodivergent people are often highly intelligent and capable individuals.
The Power of Inclusivity
Creating a more inclusive space for neurodivergent team members is essential to your company’s success.
Studies have repeatedly shown that diversity is good for a business, and inclusive culture can lead to happier employees, improved productivity, and better financial results.
Still not convinced of the power of an inclusive workforce? Take a peek at these statistics.
- Companies that focus on inclusion make 2.3 times more cash flow per employee.
- 83% of Millennials are actively engaged in their work in an inclusive environment.
- Cognitive diversity can boost team innovation by up to 20%.
- Inclusive businesses are more likely to hit financial targets by up to 120%.
4 Tips for Creating an Inclusive Workspace
Creating an environment that supports the needs of neurodivergent team members is highly achievable with determination, open-mindedness, and understanding.
Here are four ways you can create a more inclusive space for your neurodivergent employees.
1. Learn the needs of your team members.
The first step towards creating a more inclusive environment is learning about your team members’ needs.
When you understand how someone might be experiencing their environment, you can make informed decisions about how best to accommodate them. For example:
- People with autism may have trouble reading social cues and communicating with others effectively, but they might also be able to see connections between unrelated events or ideas.
- People with ADHD might struggle with focus and attention at times, but their brains do well for creativity and quick thinking.
- People with anxiety may lean toward perfectionism and worry about making mistakes, but their brains are also better at recognizing patterns and generating solutions.
The point is — neurodivergent people can bring many different strengths to your team. If you want to create a more inclusive workplace environment for them, start by learning about their needs as employees so that you can better support them at work.
That said, it’s important to be sensitive about sharing neurodivergent team members’ personal information, says Emily Simonian, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Head of Clinical Learning at Thriveworks. The last thing you want is to call unwanted attention to those employees that need different types of support in the workplace unless the employee shares the information themselves or consents to the team knowing their situation.
2. Create a culture where individuals of all types are welcome.
Of course, you can’t expect to create an inclusive space for all types of neurodivergent people if your team isn’t comfortable with differences. You need to start by creating a culture where individuals feel they can be themselves and ask for help when they need it.
Acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes and that these moments are opportunities to learn. Encourage employees to focus on what they are doing right, and provide constructive feedback on the things they could improve upon.
Lastly, let team members know that there’ll always be room for diversity in your workplace — and remind them how significant their contributions are.
Jessica Ulloa, Community Manager at MyPerfectResume shared, “As a woman and a minority it is super important for me to work in a place where I can find leaders I can identify with and look up to. Seeing someone who looks like me, in a leadership position, gives me hope that I can get there one day.”
3. Adapt to different learning styles.
When creating an inclusive environment, it’s essential to think about how team members process information based on their learning styles.
For instance, some people might require specific note-taking formats, like a spiral notebook or a notecard, while others prefer digital note-taking methods.
As a manager, it can be helpful to ask your staff what they need to be successful — and if there’s anything you can do as their manager or team leader to make their jobs more accessible and fulfilling.
This should start from the onboarding process by asking new hires how they prefer to receive information and providing them with training according to their individual needs.
Suppose a team member has dyslexia. They may absorb information best through videos and images instead of lengthy emails or documents with text. Thankfully, plenty of online tools are available to help you quickly adapt to this learning style.
For example, using Quicktools by Picsart can help you create a GIF or video that combines pictures and sound to avoid only emailing your employees with text and links.
You’ll be surprised at how far these small gestures go. Offering to make adjustments can save a lot of anxiety and stress and make for a more productive and positive work environment.
4. Focus on mental health initiatives.
Unfortunately, mental health issues are prevalent in the workplace.
You should be doing everything you can to create a safe space for employees to speak about their mental health and seek help if they need it.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Make sure there’s a culture of mental health in your company.
- Provide resources for employees who need help managing their mental health, including counseling services, access to therapy dogs, or meditation classes.
- Offer tools and training for managers and HR professionals on how to handle mental health issues with compassion and care.
- Promote mental health in the workplace by making it okay to talk about these issues without stigma or judgment.
Neurodiversity is the next step in the evolution of the workforce.
Businesses must make their environments more inclusive as our population becomes more diverse. As a society, we need to accommodate all types of brains and learn to work together as a team so everyone can reach their full potential — not just neurotypicals.
In the end, being mindful and respectful of others will help you cultivate a more creative and productive team. And your office will become a more comfortable, supportive space for everyone.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach — every individual and workplace is unique. But one thing is certain — an inclusive workplace is a happier and more productive environment where everyone benefits.