04 August 2022

Neurodiversity in the workplace

Neurodiversity has become a hot topic in recruitment in recent years. However, with one in seven people being neurodivergent in the UK it’s a wonder that the issue wasn’t brought to the table sooner.

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity refers to a range of differences in how individuals’ brains function, seen as part of normal variation in the total human population. The term, in particular, is often used when referring to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as specific learning difficulties (SpLDs) such as Dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Disorder/ Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder, Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia.

What challenges can neurodivergent people face in the workplace?

Even though neurodivergent people make up a sizeable portion of the overall population they can face difficulties in the workplace. This is because a typical office or other workplace has been set up with the requirements of neurotypical people in mind.

Simple things like lighting, noise and a great many other factors could potentially present barriers for a neurodivergent employee, making it harder for them to do their job.

Advantages of a more neurodiverse workforce

Ensuring your workforce is representative and includes neurodivergent people is an important consideration to become an inclusive employer. However, neurodivergent people have a wide variety of strengths. Employing neurodivergent people, therefore, allows you to widen your talent pool.

The University of Edinburgh states on its website that neurodiverse staff may have a number of strengths including:

  • Attention to detail
  • Deep focus
  • Expertise
  • Integrity
  • Creativity
  • Long-term memory and recall

What can be done to make workplaces better places for neurodivergent adults:

Making your workplace more neurodiverse, and better for neurodiverse people, should start with looking at your hiring practices. People who conduct interviews should be given the training to understand that certain criteria which have historically been seen as important during an interview (such as lots of eye contact) can be difficult for certain neurodivergent groups such as people with autism. Similarly, people with ADHD may jump around from topic to topic when you ask them a question or seem distracted. This does not necessarily mean however they would not thrive in the job.

Be accommodating

Also consider how you can accommodate neurodiverse people, when recruiting someone it would be worth consulting them about any reasonable adjustments you could make to help them do their job. For example, some people may find working in an office with lots of background noise and phone calls distracting, so you could create a quiet zone for people who wished to focus, or find a quiet place in the building they may prefer to work in.

People with Dyslexia may struggle with spelling or organisation so offering to purchase simple supportive software may be helpful.

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