Breaking Down Barriers Brings Out-Of-Box Perspective
With an increasing population of neurodivergent individuals entering the job market, finding a way to to create supportive work environments is more than embracing diversity- it’s a success must for forward-thinking companies.
What does ‘neurodiverse’ actually mean?
“Neurodiverse” is something of an amorphous umbrella title which basically means outside of the usual scales of neurotypical. While we all have some things we excel at and some things we do not, for a neurodiverse person there is a much larger difference between these peaks and troughs. Those differences can bring amazing highs like genius-level long-term memory or incredible attention to detail from those on the autism spectrum or exceptional spatial-relations skills in those with dyslexia and ADHD says Nancy Doyle, occupational psychiatrist and founder of social enterprise Genius Within.
Why are neurodiverse teams more effective?
With the unique qualities and strengths that neurodiverse people bring to the workplace, such as out-of-box thinking, attention to detail, and genius level retention skills, it should be no surprise that neurodiverse teams are often more effective than heterogeneous teams. Viola Sommer, chief operating officer at Auticon, an IT consultancy where all the consultants are on the autistic spectrum, lays out the benefits: “Businesses need neurodiversity. Our clients choose to work with Auticon when they have problems that their own staff can’t solve. They need someone who looks at their problems with a completely different perspective.”
I think that some people, unintentionally, focus on what I might find a bit difficult, rather than what I can do.
– Max Dean, on his experience as a neurodiverse employee
Unfortunately, it is often the challenges, not the benefits, that employers too often tend to see first. So, while neurodiverse individuals are increasingly making rightful headway in the workplace, they still face a number of barriers, particularly in the terms of how employers can offer a flexible accommodating work environment.
How can we break barriers to unbox neurodiverse potential?
To make life at work easier for neurodiverse people, and allow businesses can benefit from their unique value, it’s first vital that neurotypical staff are aware of WHY special arrangements may have been made for their dyslexic or autistic work colleagues. Accommodations are there to help everyone succeed as a team, not to give any person an unfair advantage. Lawyer Sam Rapp, who has dyslexia and struggled with misunderstanding from her peers, urges staff training to increase recognition and understanding of issues and encourages the use of available assistive technology to help neurodiverse employees reach full potential.
Get into the ideas of flexibility, versatility, personalisation of working processes. When you have an organization that insists everybody does something the same way, that’s where you are going to start excluding people. And the workplace needs neurodiversity – because the world is neurodiverse.
-Nancy Doyle, occupational psychiatrist and founder of social enterprise Genius Within.
Just as we accept differences in strength, height and personality, we should also accept divergence in social interaction and communication skills. For many on the autistic scale, simple steps like jargon free, skills based job requests, allowing interviewees to have questions in advance and longer time to give answers, availability of a closed office space and easing of large group/meeting interactions can be the key to unlocking the amazing potential in a neurodiverse employee.
Embracing neurodiversity is a win-win
Some estimates suggest that as much as 10 per cent of the population are neurodivergent, but many struggle with barriers to finding and retaining employment. The core takeaway on neurodiversity: it can benefit both employees and the business that hires them. For more on understanding and embracing neurodiversity, check out this video from renowned animal scientist (and autism spokesperson), Professor Temple Grandin.