It seems that at last there is more thought being taken around neurodiversity and how to better support those who are neurodivergent, as individuals and companies continue to develop their understanding and knowledge about diversity, equity, and inclusion.
It's estimated that 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodiverse, and it's important that within every organisation everyone does their best to create working environments and cultures that are inclusive and accommodating for all. As the saying goes: a rising tide lifts all ships.
In this article, we explore a few ways this can be done…
Create a Sense of Belonging
While many industries and organisations have moved away from exclusive attitudes and behaviours, simply acknowledging and accepting individual differences isn't quite enough. It's important to review policies, as well as company culture and ethos, to create a genuine sense of belonging so that both neurodivergent and neurotypical professionals can thrive in their roles.
Here are some ways to help create a sense of belonging for your neurodivergent employees/colleagues:
Really Get to Know One Another
Establishing a good working rapport with employees and colleagues is paramount to any team's success. Part of establishing this rapport means getting to know one another, using open and non-judgmental dialogue, learning about one another's strengths and understanding how they work. Here is a list of suggested questions you can ask your employees/colleagues to better understand them, and by extension, how to build the best possible working relationship:
When thinking about the people you work with, you might come up with some questions of your own that will garner more personal responses. It's important to remember that like you, the people you work with have full lives that exist outside of work and may affect how they work.
Create Support Systems
There are a few different systems that can add serious value to the lives of those you work with – including you. These systems include:
Mentoring provides tremendous support to every employee's career, regardless of their role. However, mentorships are likely to be even more beneficial to the development of those who are neurodivergent. Mentors can offer far more than basic career advice. They can be an ally, as well as advocate for their mentee, playing an active role in creating opportunities and empowering the individual to build a network of other professional allies across the organization.
Work buddies and trusted peers who take the time to understand their neurodiverse colleagues are also a vital source of support. Often, these relationships develop naturally, or they are fostered through company affinity groups.
As above, flexibility is another system that benefits all workers – but is especially important to neurodiverse individuals.
For example, remote working could be a better option for those who are more productive and perform better out of a home office - especially for those who are hesitant to travel or work in a distracting, social office setting.
However, it's also important not to assume that all neurodivergent professionals prefer to work from their own space. Many neurodiverse workers enjoy the routine, predictability and specificity of coming into the office.
Team-building activities are a great opportunity for managers and colleagues to interact in a more informal manner. However, these occasions can be daunting for many employees due to social anxiety, introversion, or their need for a routine. Mindfulness and understanding around this can once again be beneficial for expanding recognition for both neurodivergent and neurotypical workers who may prefer not to socialize with their team outside of work hours. This invites a fresh opportunity for managers to think creatively about how to establish a sense of comradery with types of team-building activities that work for everyone. This could make a real impact in building the team's culture of acceptance alongside belonging.