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Beyond Accommodations: Embracing Neurodiversity in the Workplace

One of the many ways our workplaces need to meet the needs of our employees is by creating inclusive environments for neurodiversity. One in seven individuals are neurodivergent, yet there still remains negative stereotypes around this group of people, especially at work.

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is the range of variability in individual brain function and behavioral traits within a group of individuals. Neurodiversity refers to the group-level (e.g., Our team embraces neurodiversity), while neurodivergent is the individual-level form of the term, referring to a member that has different neurological function from what is considered “typical” (e.g., I am neurodivergent; I have neurodivergence.)

Why is it important to embrace neurodiversity at work?

Neurodiversity, like other forms of diversity, can bring immense value to an organization. Different ways of thinking and learning can allow for increased creativity, collaboration, and better decision making at work. Often when organizations show that they are open and inclusive to different approaches to everyday tasks, it is beneficial for everyone, not just those who are neurodivergent.

Neurodivergence has been linked to “special skills in pattern recognition, memory, or mathematics” (Harvard Business Review). Therefore, it is essential to create inclusive environments for neurodivergent employees such that they feel they can bring their authentic selves to work and thrive.

What are some of the challenges neurodivergent employees face at work?

Often neurodivergent individuals face unnecessary barriers to success at work. One of the most common challenges is that they are often missed in selection and promotion procedures. Why?

The traditional ways we think of what makes a good employee, including strong communication skills, emotional intelligence, and being “personable”, sometimes do not come naturally to those who are neurodiverse. Therefore, when we screen for these traits during selection or when deciding who is in line for a promotion, we unintentionally eliminate those who are neurodiverse. This is especially true when we use interviews as our primary means of making these important decisions.

How can we create inclusive environments for a neurodiverse workforce?

So, how can we create inclusive environments, especially for those who are neurodiverse? When thinking about selection and promotion procedures, consider using alternative methods besides interviews. Companies have found success using assessment-based methods or more informal approaches to meeting with candidates outside of the normal interview (HBR).

In everyday work, organizations can also excel in inclusion for these individuals by utilizing accommodations. Some examples of these accommodations are:

  • Distraction-free workspaces for employees with ADHD or on the autism spectrum

  • Option to work from home

  • Noise-canceling headphones to reduce sensory overload

  • Providing reference materials, worksheets, and interview questions in advance

  • Mental health days and PTO

Lastly, providing training to all employees on the specific challenges and needs of neurodivergent populations can increase inclusion. The key to moving beyond traditional ways of thinking is by embracing those who think differently.

Do you want to learn more about stepping up your inclusion game? Contact Mattingly Solutions today to learn more.


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