From education to employment

It is 2024, why is being a neurodivergent employee so challenging?

Sarah Aray Exclusive

The work environment should be a place where diverse ways of thinking, processing, and working come together. Each brings its unique strengths to fuel innovation and drive success. And yet, that seems to not be the case in the current corporate world, where at least 50% of neurodivergent employees don’t feel supported by their colleagues and employers. This lack of support and understanding results in low productivity levels, poor retention rates, and low employee satisfaction. After all, you will be shocked to learn that even with the willingness and capability to do so, only 22% of autistic individuals are in employment.

All employers have an ethical and legal duty to follow the Disability and Equality Acts. These laws protect and entitle neurodivergent people to accommodations. Still, there is a clear trend of dissatisfaction, a problem that should be prioritised immediately. Every senior leader, business owner, and manager should want to know how to shift the current and strive to make the workplace an environment where all minds can thrive. 

Beyond morals and ethics —if that is not motivation enough to care about neurodiversity– what about the competitive advantage? Did you know that with the proper support in place, studies have shown that neurodivergent employees can be up to 30% (yes, 30%!) more productive than their neurotypical counterparts? What is more, although it is a marginalised group, a significant percentage of the UK population identifies as neurodivergent – about 15 to 20%, to be more precise. In other words, close to 6.6 million members of the Great British workforce are neurodivergent. Neurodivergent people bring many benefits to the workplace. Some may include the ability to hyperfocus, great attention to detail, and creative and innovative thinking.

So,  how can you, as an employer, create a space where neurodivergent team members can truly perform to the best of their ability? It all stems from a place of understanding and acceptance. It’s most important to know that neurodivergent people are diverse and unique in their traits and needs. After all, neurodivergence is an umbrella term for different diagnoses such as Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Tourette’s Syndrome, and more. 

Although diverse here are some steps that should be considered when creating a neuro-inclusive workplace: 

  • During recruitment:
    • Simple, accurate, and direct job advertisements.
    • Make it accessible for applicants to ask questions and/or for adjustments.
    • Consider making interview adjustments, for example, making them hybrid.
  • During onboarding:
    • Prior to the start date, create an itinerary outlining what will happen: who will be attending, how many people will be there, and share any needed preparation and/or expectations. 
    • Ask your employees specific questions about their needs. E.g: Are the lights in the room too bright? 
    • Provide them with the offer of mentorship and check-ins. 
  • Create a safe space and foster a sense of community:
    • Normalise talking about neurodiversity, it is not a taboo subject. 
    • Run campaigns and initiatives that raise awareness.
    • Consider creating a sensory-friendly and accessible office room.
    • Send out forms encouraging employees to share their access needs before events. Remind them to do so each time, as their needs may change.

Hopefully, this short article will become a little introduction to some of the steps you can take to become more accessible and how this will boost your employee satisfaction, retention, and brand reputation. If you believe your organisation would benefit from a more neuro-inclusive workplace but are unsure how to achieve this, don’t forget that there are dedicated companies out there with lived experience and expertise in promoting neuro-inclusivity and helping you reach your objectives. Their services in training, promoting accessibility, and creating spaces that offer your neurodivergent employees the needed adjustments to thrive in the workplace will make a significant impact in creating a more equitable, positive, and productive workplace.

By Sarah Aray, Public Relations and Communications Officer, Happy Autistic Lady

Related Articles