Employers today are striving for inclusivity to cater to a diverse workforce. While efforts have been made to accommodate visible diversities such as disabilities, gender, and culture, there is a growing need to address neurodiversity in the workplace. The implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the rise of social media have increased awareness and understanding of neurodiverse individuals and their unique barriers to traditional employment.
Why Support Neurodiverse Employees? Neurodiverse employees bring a different perspective to the table, often leading to creative problem-solving, innovative ideas, and process improvements. To fully benefit from their contributions, it is crucial to provide an optimal work environment. Modifying the environment to suit neurodiverse employees not only enhances their productivity but also benefits their neurotypical peers. Studies have shown that when learning environments are adjusted to accommodate neurodiverse individuals, learning outcomes improve for both neurodiverse and neurotypical individuals.
Accommodating Neurodiversity: Accommodations for a neurodiverse workforce can start as early as the hiring process. Traditional recruitment practices, such as group or panel interviews, can be overwhelming for neurodiverse candidates. Alternative approaches, such as online interviews, one-on-one interviews, written Q&A sessions, and skills tests, can provide a more comfortable experience. Final interviews can be transformed into casual meet-and-greet sessions, avoiding high-pressure situations. Providing interview questions in advance allows candidates to prepare and present their abilities more effectively.
In the working environment, there are several common issues neurodiverse individuals may face and practical ways to address them:
1. Noise: Some neurodiverse individuals struggle with loud noises or have difficulty separating important sounds from background noise. Reducing unnecessary ambient noise, keeping music at a low volume, installing noise-dampening dividers, and allowing the use of noise-canceling headphones can mitigate these challenges. Providing quiet working spaces and designated time-out rooms can also be beneficial.
2. Visual: A cluttered environment with excessive decorations can overwhelm neurodiverse individuals. Clean, minimalistic spaces without excessive distractions work well for both neurodiverse and neurotypical employees. Encourage a clean desk policy and consider storage options for supplies. Avoiding harsh lighting and glare helps prevent eye strain.
3. Movement: Many neurodiverse individuals seek movement for sensory regulation or simply prefer not to sit for long periods. Ensure workstations have sufficient space to move around without disturbing others. Consider offering options like wobble chairs or sit-stand desks. Encouraging regular movement breaks can also be helpful.
4. Temperature: Some neurodiverse individuals struggle with temperature fluctuations or sensitivity. Aim for a comfortable ambient temperature between 23°-25°C and consider workstation placement to accommodate different preferences.
Exploring Other Accommodations: There are various accommodations beyond the examples mentioned above. For instance, flexible or remote working options can benefit employees who feel overwhelmed in office environments. To determine the most effective accommodations for your employees, simply ask them. By seeking feedback and suggestions, you can gather valuable insights and ideas to improve the working environment, whether employees are neurodiverse or neurotypical.
For comprehensive HR support, including HR audits, employee engagement surveys, and the development of diversity and inclusion or flexible work policies, Harrisons is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your employees’ success at work.