Building an inclusive environment at work is critical for encouraging creativity and innovation. It is vital for company leaders to make sure each of their employees feels welcome and comfortable in their work space, which will increase their engagement and productivity. This is especially important when it comes to neurodivergent employees.
It is known that diversity and inclusion in the workplace brings many benefits. Businesses with diverse teams were found to have 2.5 times higher cash flow per employee. This is reached through the different perspectives and ways of thinking that come with diverse teams who feel included and valued at work. Part of this diversity is neurodiversity, and it is important to ensure those with cognitive differences feel a sense of belonging when being their true selves in the workplace.
What is Neurodiversity?
In short, neurodiversity is simply the different ways that people think and perceive the world around them. While there is not exactly a “right” way of thinking, most of us think and behave in a way that is considered standard or “typical”, hence the term neurotypical. The opposite of this, or possessing a way of thinking that “diverges” from what is considered normal, is the term neurodivergent. About 15 to 20 percent of the population is considered neurodivergent, which includes those diagnosed with neurodivergent conditions.
The most known of these conditions are Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Others include Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and Tourette Syndrome (TS). Having these conditions or otherwise a brain that functions differently than what is considered normal in society brings not just challenges, but strengths as well:
1. Creativity and innovation
Having a team of diverse minds increases problem-solving abilities and introduces unique perspectives, especially from those who see the world differently than most. This also allows more creativity to flourish which may inspire neurotypical team members to have new outlooks and ideas.
2. Pattern recognition
In certain job aspects and tasks, having an excellent memory or ability to recognize specific patterns can be very helpful. Certain neurodivergent conditions cause individuals to have these skills and more so than their neurotypical coworkers.
How to Support Neurodivergent Employees
It is common for those with neurodivergent conditions to fear that they will be seen differently if their diagnosis is shared with those around them. Many of these individuals attempt to change their behavior to hide their differences from others, also known as “masking.” Doing this can lead to stress and depression which will in turn affect their ability to do their job. There are several different ways to combat these challenges and provide support for neurodivergent employees.
1. Provide accommodations
Employees with neurodivergent conditions may perform better if their environment is more suitable for them. These accommodations can vary from person to person, and usually are low-cost and simple to implement. Some of these include (but are not limited to):
Giving employees the option to work from home
Allowing extra breaks
Reducing sensory stimuli by having more quiet spaces or providing noise-canceling headphones
Providing dedicated desks/workspaces
Allowing mental health days and PTO
Ensuring that guides on goals and tasks are clear and logical
2. Build trust between team members
It is important for all employees to be aware of the strengths and challenges faced by their neurodivergent colleagues. This can be done through internal training programs that spread knowledge and awareness of diversity and neurodiversity. Encouraging open conversations about the topic and even sharing your own personal experiences if you yourself are neurodivergent is a great way to build trust and openness.
3. Remember that everyone is unique
No two people are the same; what works for one neurodivergent individual might not work for another. There are many varying factors and characteristics that come with each neurodivergent condition, so it is important to make sure accommodations are tailored uniquely to each individual. Communicating about each employee’s needs and abilities will help make sure that they feel supported and comfortable.
Valuing diversity and inclusion in the workplace means building an environment where everyone feels safe and able to thrive while recognizing the strengths and benefits that diversity brings. Supporting neurodiversity shows that a business celebrates and values each individual in their workforce and is willing to adapt and accommodate to ensure a sense of belonging for everyone.
Sedna Consulting Group works each day to build an inclusive environment for each and every one of our employees. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are some of our core values, and we bring them into our work as we connect diverse and talented individuals to suitable careers for them. Send us a message on LinkedIn or Instagram if you would like to work with our experienced recruiting experts.