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Embracing Neurodiversity in Different Sectors  

Jun 3, 2024

3-minute read

Creating a neuro-inclusive environment is not just beneficial for the individual, but it also enriches the workplace by bringing in diverse perspectives and talents. In frontline roles in sectors such as hospitality, customer service, and construction there is a significant representation of neurodivergent individuals however, these environments often face challenges in accommodating their needs.

Understanding the landscape

In May, we attended the Watercooler event in London, where we held a workshop presenting three case studies of individuals in the workplace and their lived experiences with neurodiversity. During the workshop, an audience member pointed out that examples of neurodiversity are often office-based, highlighting the lack of recognition in other sectors such as hospitality, customer-facing roles, and construction.

When picturing a suitable working environment for neurodivergent individuals, jobs in hospitality or shop floor settings might not seem ideal due to unpredictable shift patterns, intense sensory atmospheres, and a high level of customer interactions. However, with around 30-40% of neurodivergent people unemployed, these kind of jobs, which usually require little to no qualifications and offer flexible working patterns can be a good fit if the right accommodations are made (CityGuilds, 2023).

In fact, one in two people working in hospitality is neurodivergent, highlighting the industry’s embrace of diversity (TheBurntChefProject, 2022). If employers access the right support, it can transform these working environments into safe spaces that welcome all.

Construction is another sector with significant neurodivergent representation, with one in four workers being neurodivergent according to a report by the National Federation of Builders (2023). The same report found that 36% of workers had not disclosed their neurodivergence to their employer, but 80% of those who did inform had reasonable adjustments made for them.

Challenges for the employee

  1. Change of shifts: neurodivergent individuals often thrive on routine as it reduces stress and anxiety, but working in environments such as hospitality means that shift patterns are unpredictable.
  2. Disruptive work environments: similar to an office-based role, there can be high levels of noise, bright lights, and interruptions.
  3. Lack of awareness: many workplaces lack understanding and training on neurodiversity which means the individual receives insufficient support.
  4. Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD): this involves extreme emotional sensitivity to perceived or actual rejection, which can be exacerbated in a high-pressure environment.

How organisations can help

  • Make the hiring process neuro-inclusive: simplify the application process and offer alternative ways to apply. Ensure the job advert is clear, concise, and the listed skills are all essential.  
  • Interviews: allowing candidates time to prepare for interview questions by giving them beforehand to decrease stress and anxiety.
  • Awareness training: conduct regular training sessions to educate staff and managers about neurodiversity.
  • Flexible work arrangements: where possible offer predictable schedules or provide advance notice of shift changes to accommodate the need for routine. In addition, communicate with the employee to understand their preferences.

Case Study: Marriott International

At the end of 2023 Marriott International, a hotel industry leader, announced its commitment to incorporate neuro-inclusive practices as a result of joining forces with The Neu Project, an initiative from Google’s Experience Institute. Since November 2023 events and customer meetings hosted by Marriott will have a quiet room, the opportunity to request accommodations such as fidget toys and noise-canceling headphones, and real-time subtitles and captions during stage presentations.

By implementing these practices, Marriott International sets an example for other organisations on how to create a more inclusive environment for neurodivergent individuals, demonstrating that any sector can become a welcoming place for all employees.

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