Neurodiversity in the workplace

Neurodiversity is the concept of recognising and understanding that neurological differences are to be respected.

In the context of the workplace, this means treating neurodivergent people in exactly the same way as the neurotypical.

A relatively new term, neurodivergent simply means someone who thinks differently from the way the majority (referred to as neurotypical) expect. Neurotypical means the opposite—someone whose brain behaves in the same way as the majority.

It may seem as if there has been a massive increase in neurodivergent conditions in recent times. This isn’t really the case—put simply, our methods of diagnosing them have improved. The times when a child with ADHD was thought of as just a troublemaker or dyslexia was interpreted as laziness are mostly over.

While there are no such things as specific ‘neurodivergent mental illness,’ here are a number of neurodiverse conditions that employers should be aware of:

  • ADHD: affecting around 4% of the population, ADHD can cause issues with impulse control, attention and concentration.
  • Autism: affecting 1-2% of the population, autism affects the way someone perceives the world. People with autism can find social interaction and change difficult and uncomfortable.
  • Dyslexia: affecting around 10% of the population, dyslexia is characterised by language processing difficulties that cause issues with reading, writing and spelling.
  • Dyspraxia: affecting around 5% of the population, dyspraxia affects physical co-ordination—people may seem clumsy, disorganised and have trouble with structure.

Each of these conditions brings strengths as well as weaknesses. People with autism can be extremely thorough, for example, while people with dyspraxia often have great literacy and creativity.

How can I support neurodiversity in my workplace?

  • Improve wellbeing: this is great advice in general. If your organisation has a good wellbeing system in place, neurodivergent individuals will feel far more confident and secure. Implement an employee assistance programme, display literature and make sure people are aware that their differences are appreciated.
  • Encourage openness: it’s hard for some neurodivergent people to open up. If you’re sure to treat every employee equally, it’s a lot easier for them to talk about their differences—and therefore much easier to support them.
  • Inclusivity: statistically, it’s likely that there are neurodivergent workers in your organisation. Be proactive, and think about how to include these people in every aspect of the organisation’s workings.

Remember, neurodiverse people are not necessarily ill. There isn’t really any such thing as ‘neurodivergent depression’ or ‘neurodivergent anxiety’—just people who think differently from most. And these people have skills, and ways of seeing the world, that can be a real boon to businesses. Be inclusive, be supportive, and the benefits of neurodiversity employment can be yours.

 

If you’d like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on 0333 255 9867.

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