What exactly is ‘neurodiversity’ and why do I need to know anything about it?
It is a question you may be asking if you work in HR or perhaps you have never heard of the term. Simply put, it means that the brains work in different ways for people who have.
- ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder)
- Autism and Asperger’s syndrome
- Tourette Syndrome
- Acquired Brain Injury
- Chronic neurological conditions
- Mental Health needs
These are the most typically occurring conditions in the workplace although there are others.
Why do you need to know?
All of the above conditions are classed as disabilities under the Equalities Act 2010, with disability being defined as follows:-
“a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long term (12 months+) adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”
Employers are obliged to put in place “reasonable adjustments” for employees with disabilities under the Equalities Act 2010
But have I got anyone in my workplace who is neurodiverse?
People with neurodiverse conditions have been finding ways around their condition since their school days. They have “coped” with it, but they have probably been working at 120% to get to where their colleagues get to every day. This additional pressure often manifests itself in depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
The more common difficulties associated with neurodiverse conditions in the workplace can include:-
- Time management
- Planning and prioritising
- Getting distracted by background noise
- Working Memory weaknesses, i.e. the ability to hold multiple things in your attention at one time
- Processing Speed, e. the ability to focus attention and visually scan and sequence information
These very often cause stress and it might be stress that brings them to your attention.
What can I do about it?
Ask questions to find out how best to help and support your neurodiverse employees. Everyone with a neurodiverse condition is different. They often have particular strengths in:-
- Seeing the big picture
- Thinking outside the box
- Connecting ideas
- 3D thinking
- Generally being creative and inventive
How much are you using the neurodiverse strengths of your employees?
We know that the instances of stress-related absence are increasing in the workplace.
When this happens, try and find out if the employee has a neurodiverse condition. Be sensitive; they may often not know themselves.
Access to Work can sometimes provide funding for reasonable adjustments to be made. These can range from software to translate speech into text and vice versa, or coaching in coping strategies to help employees better manage their condition.
Increase awareness of neurodiversity amongst your employees. Estimates suggest that as many as 1 in 10 people might have dyslexia. Awareness-raising sessions can help manage your sickness absence rates and improve line management skills, both of which can in turn, lead to increased productivity.
A virtuous circle!
You can also try our free online neurodiverse strategy profiler here.