Our top 8 tips for creating a neurodiverse workplace

neurodiverse workplace

What do we mean by a neurodiverse workplace?

You may have heard the terms neurodiversity and neurodiverse more often recently, but are you aware of what they mean? Being neurodiverse is the idea that there is no one way to experience and interact with the world. There is no ‘right’ way of learning, thinking or behaving and differences should not be viewed as weaknesses. Although neurodiversity refers to diversity across all people, it is normally attributed to those with autism spectrum disorder or other neurological or developmental conditions. 

The neurodiversity movement aims to embrace those with neurological conditions and increase the inclusion and acceptance of all people. This includes creating a neurodiverse workplace aimed at being a positive place for all who work there and not being targeted at those who are not diagnosed with a neurological condition. This month, Catherine Herries-Smith discuss the importance of creating a neurodiverse workplace and how you can achieve this within your business. 

Why is neurodiversity in the workplace important?

Employment law protects individuals with neurological conditions from discrimination in the workplace. The Equality Act 2010 protects many neurological conditions, often referred to as ‘hidden disabilities.’ Under the act, a disability is defined as “any physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.” This ensures that those with said characteristics are treated equally – with the same rights, status, and opportunities in society.

The exclusion of people with neurodevelopmental differences can be caused by factors such as stigma, lack of awareness, and lack of infrastructure. By understanding and embracing neurodiversity in our communities, schools, healthcare settings, and workplaces, we can improve inclusivity for everyone. It is important that we all work to create an environment that is conducive to neurodiversity. This means recognising and emphasising each person’s individual strengths and talents while also providing support for their differences and needs.

People with neurodivergent features often face many challenges in the workplace. They may have a hard time managing their social interactions or may be easily distracted. If the workplace adopted the concept of neurodiversity, it could help ease some of the stigma and stress that these workers face. This would include people who may be afraid to ask for help because they worry about being judged by their co-workers or boss. Neurodiversity programs not only help those employees who fall on the spectrum, but they also create better managers and improve company-wide communication. In EY’s case, they were not only able to find great talent, but the clarity that comes from more specific instructions has benefited everyone.

Building a neurodiverse workforce holds many advantages, especially for businesses that are looking to adopt more advanced technology like artificial intelligence, robotics, and anything else under the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) umbrella. The skills that neurodiverse people possess are precisely what is needed in order to fill these new roles. As the demand for STEM talent increases, it’s important to consider all viable candidates – and a neurodiverse workforce should most definitely be part of that conversation.

Eight tips for creating a successful neurodiverse workplace

Now that many employers are beginning to understand the importance of diversity in the workplace, they are starting to hire candidates from a variety of backgrounds. However, there is still one area of diversity that is often overlooked: neurodiversity. In addition to providing unique insights and perspectives, neurodiverse employees can also bring a number of benefits to your business. So when you’re considering a neurodiverse hire, keep in mind all the ways they can improve your company.

  • If you have employees with sensory needs, there are some small adjustments you can make to their workspace to help them feel more comfortable. For example:
  • If your employees are sensitive to sound: Offer a quiet break space, communicate expected loud noises (like fire drills), or offer noise-cancelling headphones.
  • If your employees have a need for tactile input: Allow modifications to the usual work uniform.
  • If your employees have a need for movement: Allow the use of fidget toys, allow extra movement breaks, or offer flexible seating.
  • Formulate and stick to a clear communication style across the business. Avoid the use of sarcasm, euphemisms and implied messages. Provide clear instructions to staff and make sure tasks are broken down into manageable steps. 
  • Don’t assume someone is being rude or breaking the rules on purpose. Ensure all staff are aware of the workplace and social etiquette. 
  • Ensure you provide as much notice as possible if plans are changing and give your staff a reason why. 
  • Never assume – ask about each employee’s preferences, needs and goals. 

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Frequently Asked Questions | Employment Law | Herries-Smith Solicitors

Catherine Herries-Smith is your local employment solicitor

Whether you are an employee working with a company that doesn’t appreciate or understand neurodiversity or you are an employer trying to make neurodiverse changes in the workplace, Catherine Herries-Smith is your local employment solicitor who is here to help and support from both sides. If you feel you have been discriminated against because of a protected characteristic, get in touch with us today and see how we can support you. 

If you are looking to create a neurodiverse workplace and need some legal assistance, Catherine Herries-Smith is here to support you in moving your journey forward. Call our team today and be supported by a single person throughout your project. We look forward to working with you soon.