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Date posted: 10th November 2022

10th November 2022

4 Ways to Support Neurodiverse Individuals in the Workplace

4 Ways to Support Neurodiverse Individuals in the Workplace

In recent years, there has been a concerted effort by many organizations to implement and action diversity & inclusion policies within their workplaces.

And while we are finally starting to see a shift in workplace attitudes towards minority groups, neurodiversity is often an overlooked demographic.

With an estimated 20% of people worldwide identifying as neurodivergent, leaders must ensure that our colleagues with neuro differences are included within their DEI plans.

To find out how to promote a better employee experience for neurodiverse individuals in your workplace, check out this article by Dr. Nika White.

From the Entrepreneur article: How Leaders Can Support and Embrace The Untapped Potential of Neurodiverse Talent.

Find a manager or employee to be their success partner and ally

If there’s a manager or someone who works side-by-side with a neurodivergent individual, make it a point to train that person on how to practice active listening and compassionate communication. I usually suggest hosting team talks for situations where listening and receiving feedback are helpful in solving inclusivity issues. However, for individuals, it can feel isolating and “outing” to have group conversations about inclusion and be the “only one” with a particular identity at the table.

For individuals, it’s better to have one-on-one conversations with someone they trust who can offer a listening ear. A manager is an ideal candidate to be a successful partner or ally because managers are charged with listening to their employees’ needs and have the simultaneous authority to access leadership and request inclusive policy and practice changes. This is an example of when compassionate listening meets action.

Design different physical spaces that accommodate various employee preferences

One way your business can be mindful of neurodiversity is to create dynamic spaces in the office that meet various work needs. Workspaces can be quite important to neurodivergent individuals. Some may prefer to be alone in a closed-door office while others may prefer a certain style of furniture, wall colors or a pleasant aroma.

Creating physical workspaces that meet the needs of group meetings, individual working and pleasant places to rest can stimulate and calm certain individuals in the workplace. The best part is, that having different spaces will help not only neurodivergent individuals but neurotypical employees, too. Building dynamic spaces can help all employees find their best working environment and feel comfortable completing their tasks.

The goal is to create spaces that support, not inhibit, workers with different working styles to do their best work. Creating dynamic physical spaces can be an investment in your employees’ wellbeing as well as their inclusion and comfort.

Avoid labeling neurodivergent people as “different” or othering them

One mistake we make as employees and business owners is wanting to categorize individuals and put them into boxes. I shared earlier that neurodiversity can sometimes overlap with ADHD, autism and Tourette’s syndrome. While that’s true, it’s important not to “out” or label neurodivergent people as different or as having “different needs.”

As leaders, we have to walk a fine line between supplying workers with what they need to do their jobs while making sure they don’t feel exposed or embarrassed by making personal requests for their work and wellbeing.

Be sure to train managers and fellow employees who work with neurodivergent people on how to be sensitive to their needs and embrace their requests without othering them. As mentioned earlier, while one change to the physical or cultural environment may benefit a particular neurodivergent person, it may also be appreciated by other employees.

Encourage other employees to value the different working styles of others

The challenges organizations face when adapting to neurodiversity in the workplace may actually begin with fellow employees. Not everyone may be as intentional as leadership when creating an inclusive workplace. Some employees may not understand why a certain individual chooses to be alone in their office while company functions are occurring or why an individual is so sensitive to the noise of the coffee maker in the background.

Instead of leadership overlooking employees judging or looking down upon individuals who are neurodivergent, host a training or workshop that can help them spot the behaviors of neurodivergent individuals and find ways to be compassionate and respectful in those scenarios.

A warm, inclusive and compassionate work culture can make or break a neurodivergent individual’s ability to work and thrive. Sometimes having allies and success partners amongst fellow employees can be an invaluable support system to a neurodivergent person — even when leadership hasn’t quite caught on yet.

Final thoughts

As you think through your DEI plans and strategies, you may be thinking of how your organization can support racial, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation minorities. However, don’t forget about those with mental and cognitive disabilities that may not be as apparent. These individuals are in need of the same respect and inclusion.

Create an environment where employees and team members with physical and mental disabilities can feel supported. This can include physical spaces that smell, feel or sound a certain way. Or it can be training managers and employees on what allyship looks like for neurodivergent individuals. No matter how you do it, keep folks with mental disabilities in your DEI plans this year and beyond.

Read the full article, here. 

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