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What your neurodiverse colleagues would like you to know

Feb 12, 2024

3 minute read

Introduction

Let’s take a deeper dive into understanding the experience of neurodiverse employees and what you can do to be more neuroinclusive.

In our recent series of blog posts, we delved into strategies for fostering an inclusive environment within organisations and highlighted the advantages of cultivating a neurodiverse workforce. This week we reached out to some members of our team at Thriiver who identify as neurodivergent, inviting them to share their firsthand experiences navigating workplace challenges and some practical solutions they have implemented to navigate these obstacles effectively or reduce daily challenges.

It is important to recognise that just as no neurotypical individuals are alike, the same applies to neurodivergent individuals. Each person brings unique strengths, challenges, preferences, and cognitive processing styles. Rather than relying on stereotypes, take the time to truly understand your colleagues as an individual. For instance, communication styles vary – some may prefer written communication, while others thrive in face-to-face interactions. Recognising and accommodating these differences fosters stronger collaboration and mutual understanding. Whether you are an employee or a manager, offer support rather than pity or differential treatment.

What difficulties do neurodivergent individuals face?

What are some specific challenges that neurodivergent individuals face? To shed light on this question, we engaged in conversations with neurodiverse members of Thriiver.  Here are some of the key difficulties they shared:

  1. Problems with communication and interaction – People can often misinterpret information a neurodivergent individual has said through tone of voice, such as being blunt in conversations which can come across as being too direct. This also includes non-verbal communication such as body language and facial expressions. Neurodivergent individuals may verbally convey one message, while their face might not align with the typical cues associated with that message.
  2. Difficulty with time management – Particularly prevalent in ADHD, as people can struggle with organizational skills and time blindness, which means difficulty in perceiving how much time has passed. This can prove problematic in the workplace due to not meeting expectations and strict deadlines.
  3. Information overload – Also known as cognitive overload, often experienced in environments where an individual is exposed to excessive stimuli or fast-paced communication. For example, this could be the case in large group meetings due to trouble processing information and making notes.
  4. Awkwardness in social events – With 8 out of 10 neurodivergent individuals choosing not to attend social events, many people can find this uncomfortable in the workplace leading them to avoid networking events or after-work drinks (Eventwell, 2023).

Tips for neurodivergent employees

For neurodivergent employees who prefer not to disclose their neurodiversity or also struggle with the difficulties above, we created a simple yet effective list of easy adjustments that have proven helpful for our team members.

  • Combat time blindness and information overload by incorporating regular breaks into your workday. Stepping away from tasks periodically can help you recharge and maintain focus.
  • If large groups feel overwhelming, request for smaller meetings, or ask colleagues to share meeting notes.
  • Use visual aids such as post-it notes or whiteboards if you’re working from home to help with organisation and prioritising tasks.
  • Creating a personalised email signature that excuses any spelling or grammar errors.
  • Ask to have verbal instructions written down to help with remembering them and creating a to-do list.

Tips for managers

With two-thirds of workers not disclosing to their managers that they are neurodivergent, it is important to offer reasonable accommodations to employees without necessitating self-disclosure (IOSH, 2023). While inclusive recruitment processes and making adjustments for those who do choose to disclose are important, there are, however, default accommodations in the workplace that can benefit the entire team:

  • Providing a quiet space for focus and concentration.
  • Offering fidget toys or other sensory tools.
  • Not having expectations for employees to attend social events and offering online alternatives.
  • Give clear and constructive feedback, as neurodivergent individuals may struggle with reading between the lines.
  • Asking individuals how they like to work.

Conclusion

Ultimately, employees implementing simple adjustments and managers offering default accommodations to everyone in the workplace will create a supportive environment where every team member can thrive and contribute their unique talents and perspectives.


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