Create a Workspace for Neurodivergent Employees to Thrive

October 21, 2019

Create a Workspace for Neurodivergent Employees to Thrive

If you've been following our neurodiversity blog series, you'll be familiar with Theo Smith and Michelle Ridsdale. Working in collaboration with them, we've put together some useful information on how to create a workspace where your neurodivergent employees can thrive.

"We can all sit around waiting to try and change the world or we can just change it" – Theo Smith

The workplace wasn't created with the needs of neurodivergent people in mind but small adjustments can make a world of difference. Creating a workspace that accommodates neurodiversity can feel daunting when you don't know where to begin so we’re here to help…

Knowledge is power, right? So, the main thing to take away from this blog post is to learn if your employees have any triggers. If they do, find out what they are so you can learn how to ease them.

Neurodivergent individuals can be triggered by things that others may not react to such as bright lights. However, without being told it's unlikely that people will know this. For this reason, it’s so important that the employer creates an environment where the employee feels they can openly talk about what business adjustments can be made for them to ease their triggers. By doing this it either eliminates or reduces these stressful triggers for the employee, creating a much more comfortable working environment for them.

Theo told us that in very rare cases, an organisation just won’t suit an individual and they might leave. The working environment might not work for them and this could be down to something like the employer not being able to offer flexible hours which would suit the employee more. However, before this happens, make sure you've done everything you can to identify any triggers, offer support and adjustments where you can to help them reach their potential.

The following gives examples of common triggers and offers simple suggestions on solutions. We hope this shows you how easy it is to make small adjustments that can help your neurodivergent employees.

Triggers & Suggested Solutions

Trigger: Auditory stimulation is when too much noise can be overwhelming when trying to work.

Solution:

  • Provide the option to wear headphones
  • Offer noise cancelling headphones or earplugs
  • Option to work remotely or from home on selected days to give employees a break from hectic working spaces especially in open-plan offices
  • Have a private pod as an alternative, quiet working place. This can also be utilised by other employees when they need a quiet environment.

Trigger: Interrupting someone unexpectedly can overwhelm and distress someone who hyper focuses.

Solution:

  • Implement a system where the employee can request to be texted or emailed before somebody distracts them.

Trigger: Bright lights can cause sensory overload.

Solution:

  • Dim the lights slightly in selected areas of working spaces
  • Seat the employee away from the window to reduce bright light.

Trigger: Unorganised desk, some employees may struggle with personal organisation, so they are likely to benefit from an organised workspace.

Solution:

  • Offer filing cabinets and organisational equipment to encourage a clutter free and organised workspace.

Trigger: Jargon filled and long emails or messages can prevent people from identifying the key points.

Solution:

  • Cut out the jargon and be specific
  • Highlight the key points of the email if you can't remove the jargon
  • Summarise the key messages at the end of the email
  • Write the email in concise bullet points to simplify the format
  • Offer to explain the tasks verbally.

Trigger: Glare from computer screens, the glare from computer screens can cause visual stress.

Solution:

  • Coloured overlays for computer monitors can reduce glare.

Trigger: Concentration difficulties, an employee may struggle to concentrate for long periods.

Solution:

  • Offer regular breaks if they are willing to complete their working hours outside of those breaks. For example, offer an 8.30-5.30 day with regular 10 minute breaks rather than a 9-5 day.
  • Encourage employees to focus on one job at a time to help them stay focused and avoid distractions.

Trigger: Hyperactivity, are when individuals need to move around more so may struggle to sit still for long periods.

Solution:

  • Offer a chair with a wide range of movement Offer movement breaks and encourages the use of the stairs.

If the trigger isn't listed, ask your employees what you can do to help them, be open to their ideas.

Making Adjustments

Adjustments that work to ease one person’s trigger could aggravate another employee. For example, someone could be triggered by a colleague’s frequent need to move around. It's important to be conscious of everyone in the teams preferred working style and find ways to ensure employees work well together.

Educating your workforce

Michelle stressed the importance of neurodivergent employees feeling understood and accepted by their team. This helps to avoid work anxiety, performance issues and bullying.

A great way to do this is to have a ‘lunch and learn’ session which can reduce the stigma around the subject. This involves having a team lunch where the neurodivergent employee can educate their team and answer questions they have. This type of session can be more beneficial than bringing in an external educator, as it’s a more personable and real approach.

Michelle has found that putting additional support measures in place can be useful. She gave examples such as mentoring and support groups.

Why you should make a change today?

The ignorance surrounding neurodiversity is becoming an issue that shouldn't be tolerated. In the past, it has led to unfair dismissals, court cases and worst of all wasted talent! And with 1 in 7 people in the UK being neurodivergent, that’s a whole lot of wasted talent.

So, what are you waiting for? If you want to see the effects these small changes can make to your business, why not try implementing them and watch your productivity increase!

Check out other posts in our Neurodiversity series...

We’d like to thank Theo Smith and Michelle Ridsdale for enlightening us on neurodiversity in the workplace throughout our neurodiversity blog series. We've loved learning all about it and what changes need to be made in the workplace. We hope you've found these inspiring and useful too.

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