Supporting Neurodiversity In the Evolving Workplace
In terms of supporting neurodiversity in the workplace, there has been much written, some progress and there remains much work to do, but there is at least an open dialogue and in general terms a willingness and desire to implement the necessary changes. This article will take a look at these, of course, but will also touch upon what has changed and continues to change as the nature of the workplace has evolved in a post-pandemic world and whether these changes - such as more possibilities of working from home - are beneficial or detrimental to neurodiverse individuals.
Neurodiversity - the background
Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Autism and ADHD all come under the umbrella of neurodiversity. Rather than thinking of these as 'disorders' or 'conditions' it is more helpful to think of the neurodiverse as individuals who have different ways of thinking and understanding the world around them.
Helping to embrace and empower these individuals, while also taking advantage of their many, diverse strengths in the workplace is an ongoing challenge. In terms of numbers around 15% of the UK population are neurodiverse in one way or another, which translates into a considerable number of job applicants, existing staff and of course clients and customers.
Supporting neurodiversity in today's workplaceDiscourse
The biggest challenge lies in getting to grips with the different types of neurodiversity and helping staff within the organisation to gain an insight into the challenges neurodiverse individuals face as well as some of the strengths and insights they bring to different situations. Any initiatives, support and guidance should be shared with all members of staff and there should be time available for necessary discourse. If line managers and bosses can talk comfortably and knowledgeably about neurodiversity then this will filter down through the rest of the team.
As well as compassion, understanding, information and education in the workplace, there is certainly a role for technology. Various technological advancements have helped when it comes to adapting parts of the workplace for neurodiverse individuals. Talking Word Processor is an excellent bit of software that provides speech feedback, allowing individuals to hear their writing as it is typed, while Immersive Reader, in Microsoft's Learning Tools allows highlighted words to be read back to you.
Mindview is another excellent tool for workplace adjustment for neurodiversity. It uses mind-mapping and is incredibly visual and intuitive, helping presentations or learning jargon for a new area of work or profession, reducing stress and anxiety as well enhancing recall and memory, while aiding organisation. Neurodiverse individuals, especially on the autistic spectrum can have a great ability to see amazing levels of detail, but can struggle to see the bigger picture - which is where mind mapping tools such as Mindview can help.
Has working from home helped?
There is no doubt that working from home removes a great number of stress triggers from many neurodiverse individuals, but any change in itself can be very stressful so support should be given and if a transition period or balance between working at home and in the workplace can be implemented then this would be preferable.
While working from home can eliminate many issues faced by neurodiverse individuals and in particular people with dyslexia have found it very helpful, removing the routine of heading to the office each day has been tough for many. What is important for employers is maintaining an open dialogue and reaching a balance that works.