As we see more demand for inclusive workspaces, awareness around the term neurodiversity has cultivated. Used as an umbrella term for those who process information differently, it currently affects an estimated 9.96 million people in the UK. With the number of neurodivergent individuals making up a typical workforce on the rise, we explore how employers can begin rethink, and reshape, their office space to help them thrive.
Nearly three-quarters of neurodivergent workers choose not to disclose their condition fearing discrimination. Ironically, employers who fear and exclude those with neurodivergent qualities are missing out by neglecting an untapped pool of talent which could result in huge value added to companies. JPMorgan Chase reported that after just 3-6 months of working in its Mortgage Banking technology group, employees who were autistic were doing the work of people who typically required three years to train, and were 50% more productive.
Only 1 in 10 HR professionals focus on neurodiversity within their organisations and a staggering 59% of common adjustment types cost nothing for the employer. It’s time to raise awareness, take control of your working environment and transform it into a space that works for everybody. Here’s five ways you can start to accommodate neurodiversity and inclusion in your workplace:
Cater to talent with an adaptable and flexible work-setting to accommodate anyone who sets foot in your door, no matter the circumstances. Even small adjustments can make all the difference. Agile work-settings might include active zones, meditation rooms, or quiet booths – with each one providing its own benefit.
People with ADHD find it hard to concentrate for long periods and need a place to release energy between tasks. Mindful Chef’s new office has a gym sporting Peloton bikes and Lulu Lemon equipment – providing the perfect spot to for the team to let off some steam if needed during the day. Those with Asperger’s Syndrome might benefit more from a quiet space when the day is too overwhelming. Jigsaw’s “Zen Zone” includes sunken seating and meditation booths to achieve peaceful relaxation without complete isolation.
Offering flexibility to all staff is appreciated, but to those who are neurodiverse, it’s invaluable. For some neurodiverse personalities, travelling in rush hour can be overwhelming and can lead to distress. Encouraging both hybrid working and flexibility on hours means working from home when needed and missing the morning and evening rush on days in the office.
Acoustic panels can significantly reduce sound pollution in busy areas and enhance the calmer atmosphere whilst the use of different materials and colours to define zones and activity areas can make space more memorable and useful for those with autism. A 2016 study in Frontiers in Psychology discovered that specific colours could be oppressive to those with a neurodiverse condition. Yellow is the most sensory-loaded colour and can be punishing for those with autism — if sensory stimulation is already enhanced, this is detrimental to productivity (Quito, 2019).
Raise awareness amongst your team by educating on neurodiversity and how each condition affects an individual, in-turn encouraging neurotypical staff to broaden their knowledge of colleagues. From a new employee’s perspective — going into an inclusive and transparent company will help to ease a few of those first-day jitters. Consider putting a buddy system in place for neurodivergent employees, easing them in and helping them to build valuable relationships with colleagues. People with autism are prone to feeling more anxious or overwhelmed at work. Having educated employees who understand can make a big difference.
Neurodivergent individuals thrive on repetition and predictability. Clear and straightforward wayfinding cues throughout your workplace will help people feel in control. Landmarks such as a statement staircase or a mezzanine can help with orientation, leading to self-sufficient behaviour and workplace confidence.