Managing neurodiversity in the workplace.

When someone describes themselves as ‘Neurodivergent’ it just means that their brain works a bit differently from what’s considered ‘normal’ or ‘neurotypical.’ This term covers a range of different conditions such as Autism, ADHD and dyslexia, just to name a few. Guess what? In the UK, more and more people are proudly wearing the neurodivergent badge, making up about 15% of the population at present in 2024. Chances are, you’ve got a neurodivergent friend, colleague, or family member. 

It does seem like neurodiversity is a bit of a buzzword right now. Everyone’s talking about it, or at least everyone wants to look like they’re talking about it, but are businesses really having the raw conversations they need to have to support and understand neurodivergent employees? We sat down with the wonderful Robyn to discuss the daily grind as a neurodivergent employee, office survival tactics, why hiring neurodivergent candidates is a win, and how companies can step up their game in supporting neurodivergent employees.

Coping on days where you feel overwhelmed.

Managing overwhelming days is crucial, especially for neurodivergent individuals who may find busy office environments challenging. Companies should prioritise creating neuro-inclusive workplaces, and these adjustments need not be costly. Simple changes, such as minimising harsh lighting, reducing loud music, and incorporating quiet spaces, can significantly enhance the comfort of all employees. Additionally, it's beneficial to explore coping mechanisms for neurodivergent individuals in the office environment. For instance, we interviewed Robyn to learn about her strategies for navigating such situations.

‘’On the days I can’t sit still I use a fidget toy. I focus better when my hands are busy if I’m on the phone to someone I’ll listen to them more and zone out everything else when I’m doing something. That’s on ADHD days. Then there is a cushion thing that is knitted that I like to use, anything that is like a fun sensory toy. It’s a coping mechanism.’

‘’On the days I’m overstimulated I use earplugs. I’d recommend the loop ones that filter sounds. It’s a loud office, with bright lights, so I do struggle on days where my sensory overload is worse. Sometimes I’ll hide in a room get my own space, take myself off to a meeting room to do some work, or sit on my own at lunch to recharge.’’

The benefits of hiring neurodivergent employees.

Unfortunately, neurodivergent candidates do struggle to find jobs, with only 1 in 16 autistic adults in full-time employment. Often, this because the recruitment process is normally aimed towards neurotypical employees. So, it’s not surprising really that when neurodivergent employees do find a job that is inclusive and comfortable they will remain loyal and stay in the job for a long period.

Statics show that ’the world’s largest autism hiring programmes at EY SAP, JP Morgan and Microsoft have an employee retention rate of more than 90%’ , which just goes to show that making the effort to improve your recruitment process, training programmes and office environment, can result in gaining long term skilled staff members. And loyalty isn’t the only benefit of hiring neurodivergent employees.

A case study by JPMorgan Chase found that professionals in its Autism at Work initiative, ‘made fewer errors and were 90% to 140% more productive than neurotypical employees.’  Neurodivergent employees find it easier to achieve hyper-focus and get work done to a high standard. The only thing to remember is that sometimes this high level of focus can result in burnout, so checking in with neurodivergent employees remind them to take necessary breaks is super important.

Creative & innovative thinking is something that comes naturally to neurodivergent employees.  Neurodivergent minds have a unique perspective that can benefit any company with a real ability to draw conclusions and recognise patterns that neuro-typical employees would not pick up. People that have ADHD for example are ‘scientifically proven to have the edge when it comes to creativity. They’re also more likely to take risks, which, when given due consideration, can prove more profitable than sticking with the status quo.’

It's not just about the individual advantages, hiring neurodivergent employees can transform your workplace into a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone. The ripple effects of fostering inclusion extend beyond neurodivergent individuals, reaching every member of your team.

Encouraging an all-inclusive culture reassures all staff members that they can be their authentic selves. This not only enhances job satisfaction but also fosters a sense of belonging. A neuro-inclusive approach doesn’t just benefit those who are neurodivergent; it creates a positive atmosphere that resonates with everyone. Embracing neurodiversity expands your talent pool. As an employer, you’re more likely to attract a diverse range of skilled individuals who appreciate and seek out workplaces that value differences. This, in turn, can lead to a unique and dynamic team.

Niyaa People & Neurodivergent employees.

At Niyaa people we are working towards creating a neuro-inclusive working environment. But don’t just take our word for it we asked Robyn how she finds working at Niyaa People and if she feels personally supported by the business:

‘’I never thought I’d be able to work in an office, with the sensory overload, all the noises, and the fact I struggle to sit still. When I thought about an office my brain would automatically think of a boring admin-infested grey environment.  I just didn’t think it would work for me. But then I learnt about the role of a recruiter, and it sounded so stimulating and mentally engaging to me. I’ve felt very supported by colleagues and managers. When I felt overwhelmed or like I couldn’t do a task my managers didn’t say ‘Get on with it’ They asked me ‘Why aren’t you doing this, is there any support we can give you? How does it register in your brain? How is it different?’’

Tips for how companies can improve and better support neurodivergent employees:

Employees and managers need to take the time to educate themselves on how they can further improve. Why wouldn’t you want more neurodivergent employees after all the benefits they can bring?

To cultivate a safe and inclusive environment for neurodivergent employees, here are our top tips:

Improve the recruitment process: As discussed, most recruitment processes can be alienating to neurodivergent people as they are typically aimed toward those who are neurotypical. Make sure that you make job adverts simple and accurate. Only include relevant information. Neurodivergent people often think literally so will not apply if they don’t have the exact skills listed. Always state that you are a neuro-inclusive workplace and ask if there is anything you can do to make the interview process the best possible experience for candidates.

Think about management training: Don’t just do training because you’ve hired someone who’s neurodivergent. It’s worthwhile training for all management to have regardless. Don’t wait for someone from the company who’s neurodivergent to educate you, educate yourself. Managers need to ensure they take the time to understand that everyone learns differently. Take the time to understand how your employees would prefer to be managed.

Improve the workplace environment: Understand that workplaces can be over-stimulating consider creating private spaces where employees can take a breather. Allow employees some personal items on desks. Remember that ear plugs, noise-cancelling headphones and fidget toys can all be useful tools to improve focus.  Lastly consider noise levels, lighting and equipment needs that may help them thrive in the workplace.  Don’t underestimate the impact that little environmental changes can have on engagement levels.

And finally, think about ways you can create supportive pathways for neurodivergent employees to help retain and nurture them during the training process.  You should consider the time, frequency, clarity, and necessity of communication to reduce neurodivergent employees and ensure that your message is clear. It’s fine to check in on how the training has landed and whether anything can be improved for next time.

To conclude:

Fostering a neuro-inclusive environment is a strategic move for companies to thrive. Understanding the challenges neurodivergent individuals face is the first step towards creating an inclusive workplace. Simple changes can make a big difference.

There are many benefits of hiring neurodivergent employees including loyalty, productivity, lower error rates and enhanced creative thinking. Why wouldn’t you want to diversify your workforce?

For companies looking to enhance their support for neurodivergent employees, the path forward involves more than just ticking boxes —it requires a genuine embrace of differences. From changing outdated recruitment practices to fostering a sensory-friendly workplace, the goal is to create an environment where every individual feels seen, valued, and empowered.

For more information about working for us, and the different paths we offer, please go to our ‘join us’ page, or you can give our brilliant Internal Recruiter Cheryl a call, you can find her details here.

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15th March

Career Advice Company news Blog