Neurodivergent employees have unique needs that workplaces must meet to accommodate their employees. Here are a few areas of concern you should be aware of.
In recent years, the conversation surrounding mental health and accommodations has become more commonplace. This shift has made it easier for many neurodivergent individuals to get the support they need. Here’s what neurodivergence and accessibility in the workplace can look like.
“Neurodivergent” is an umbrella term that includes diagnoses such as ADHD and autism and other disorders such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Many neurodivergent individuals, especially those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), struggle with indirect communication. The subtext and implied information that a neurotypical (NT) person communicates within a sentence is often lost, with the neurodivergent (ND) person only understanding the literal words used.
Here’s an Example:
NT boss: “Please get these files back to me when you can.”
Subtext: “Get these back to me by tomorrow at the latest.”
ND employee: “Okay, I’ll get to these files when I am able.”
Here, the neurodivergent employee does not understand the time constraint the boss is implying. They will likely handle other time-sensitive tasks first, leaving the files untouched for an indeterminate amount of time. This miscommunication due to indirect language can cause delayed projects and workplace tension.
Instead, Try Communicating Directly:
NT boss: “Please get these files back to me by end of day tomorrow.”
ND employee: “Sure thing, I’ll prioritize this task and have it done by end of day tomorrow.”
Here, there is no miscommunication because the boss communicated directly and said precisely what they meant.
Many neurodivergent people become overstimulated and overwhelmed by excessive sensory input. This sensory overload causes the neurodivergent person to feel anxious, irritable, distracted, and restless.
Allowing and encouraging your neurodivergent employees to use their needed sensory accommodations will make their time in the workplace less stressful and more productive. Some sensory accommodations include sunglasses, stim toys, soft lighting, noise-canceling headphones, and earplugs.
Alternative Workplace Solutions
Many neurodivergent employees benefit from a modified workplace, such as a remote or hybrid work option. This is partly due to the ability to create a customized, sensory-friendly space tailored to that individual’s needs.
Many neurodivergent people also have low-energy days, where daily tasks such as making a meal, putting together an outfit, and socializing with coworkers become daunting and nearly insurmountable tasks. The neurodivergent person may still be able to manage these tasks but will find themselves with little to no energy remaining when they attempt to do their actual job.
Being permitted to work from home as needed allows neurodivergent people to use their energy where it is best spent—on their projects and client-facing emails. This reduces their stress levels and ensures that the company’s projects don’t suffer.
Creating an accessible workplace for neurodivergent individuals is an essential step towards inclusivity. While it may not be traditional in corporate culture, it ensures that neurodivergent people can come to work and thrive just like everyone else.
This is so informative. We do not discuss this enough in our community