Neurodiversity is a term used to describe the idea that there is no one “right” way of thinking, and positively promotes the differences in the way people learn, behave and interact with the world. Well-known neurodiverse conditions include autism, ADHD and dyslexia, but there are many more that employers should be aware of.
There are many benefits to promoting neurodiversity in the workplace. For instance, some people on the autistic spectrum have a strong rule-based way of thinking, which means they can approach problem-solving tasks in a more logical way. Whereas often people with dyslexia are seen as more creative, which can help to challenge pre-existing processes and find more effective solutions.
So how can you best support neurodiversity in the workplace? Here are three things to consider to help your staff feel comfortable and perform to their best.
1. Adapt your interview processes
For many people, interviews are made harder than they need to be due to a lack of consideration taken over their individual needs. Before the interview, you should ask the candidate if there is anything you can do on the day to make them feel more comfortable. On the day, bear in mind that societal norms are often difficult for many neurodiverse people to understand and follow. This means that they may struggle to maintain eye contact, and they shouldn’t be marked down because of this.
They may also miss conversational cues, which can make it difficult for them when standard interview techniques are used. To give the candidate the best chance at success, keep your questions concise, and try to avoid open-ended or vague questions. During the conversation, give the candidate time to process your questions, and avoid jumping in to try and help them out.
You may also want to shift the focus to more of a skills-based interview, which can give neurodiverse applicants a better platform to showcase their abilities and demonstrate what they can bring to the role.
2. Offer more flexible working arrangements
Flexible working is fast becoming common practice for companies all around the world. Whilst it was a necessity for many months during the pandemic, many people are now looking to hold on to the benefits it provides going forwards. There are many advantages to working from home, but for people with neurodiversity, the benefits could be even more pronounced.
When working from home, employees will have greater control over their surroundings and the layout of their office. This can go a long way toward helping neurodiverse employees to feel more comfortable in their working environment. Not only could this help them to feel happier and more productive at work, but it could also help to encourage greater employee retention.
Flexibility doesn’t exclusively refer to remote working arrangements – you may also look to alter company policies to better accommodate neurodiverse team members. For example, if someone feels uncomfortable commuting to work during the rush hour, you could offer earlier or later start and finish times, which would mean they can come to work in a more positive state of mind.
3. Increasing awareness
Supporting neurodiverse members of staff isn’t just the responsibility of management teams or the business owner. It’s incumbent upon the entire workforce to help with the onboarding process and any ongoing support that their colleagues may require.
In this way, a pivotal part of supporting neurodiverse employees is by ensuring your staff are properly educated on how to communicate with each other. To create a more inclusive culture, you may need to change the language used throughout the company – use positive, respectful words and avoid patronising terms.
Neurodiversity is often stigmatised, and it’s primarily the responsibility of the management team to help remove these barriers and initiate conversations with employees around the subject. Not only will this help the rest of the team to better understand the part they have to play in supporting a neurodiverse employee, but it will also help to take the pressure off the individual, by having these conversations initiated by someone else.
To sum up
Fundamentally, a more diverse team means employees can benefit and learn from each other’s different experiences and backgrounds. This sharing of skills and knowledge helps to promote both personal and collective growth and will give your company a greater competitive advantage. If you want to create an inclusive working environment, remember that support should be an ongoing process rather than a one-off commitment. You should also regularly review your processes to ensure you’re offering the best possible level of support.