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How To Better Accommodate Your Neurodivergent Employees

How To Better Accommodate Your Neurodivergent Employees

More and more companies have been prioritizing employee mental health, finding that it improves both employee happiness and productivity. For neurodivergent employees, the way they care for their mental health may look different than their neurotypical coworkers. Here’s how to better accommodate your neurodivergent employees.

Defining Neurodivergence

Neurodivergence refers to a brain that functions differently than a neurotypical one. Neurotypical people are considered “normal” by society. Neurodivergent people may do tasks or approach social situations in ways that appear unusual to neurotypicals. Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and many others fall under the umbrella of neurodivergence.

Change Your Mindset

The very first thing you should do to make your workplace more accommodating is change your mindset toward neurodivergence. Many biases against neurodivergent individuals are unconscious; this is part of the reason corporate jobs are so difficult for them.

For example, during a meeting, you may see an employee fidgeting and rarely looking at the presenter. What might you assume? That they are distracted, rude, and disrespectful? Consider that the employee could be neurodivergent.

Sometimes, autistic people miss social cues and either avoid or make overly-direct eye contact. Both ADHD and autistic individuals stim in order to self-regulate. Stimming can be defined as a repetitive sensory action. Common examples include foot tapping and finger drumming. Far from being uncaring or distracted, stimming helps neurodivergent people focus on tasks or conversations.

Take our example of the employee from the meeting. If they forced themselves to sit perfectly still and focus only on the presenter, they would retain far less information. Why? Because they are completely focused on engaging “correctly” and being still, rather than listening in a way that is comfortable for them. Neurodivergent employees who learn to sit still or make eye contact due to pressure from employers do so to make others more comfortable. This form of “masking” does not benefit them in any way; instead, it harms them.

Instead of assuming negative qualities about your employee, ask them about actions that confuse you. From bluntness being perceived as rudeness to lateness being perceived as lack of care, there are countless ways employers assume the worst of neurodivergent people.

Make the Workspace Accommodating

Once you’ve adjusted the interpersonal dynamic, you must work on ways to make your office space more accessible, such as establishing a blended work environment. Neurodivergent employees sometimes lack the energy to interact with coworkers or even drive to work. Wasting energy on mundane tasks makes them less able to do their job effectively. Allowing them to work from home as needed will increase productivity.

Creating a sensory space is another great way to better accommodate your neurodivergent employees. A sensory space can be any cozy, dimly lit room, away from any noise. Allowing overstimulated employees to reset in a low sensory environment will positively impact their mental health and productivity.

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Written by Marcus Richards

Photo by Kevin Mueller on Unsplash

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