5 quick steps to make your workplace more Neurodiverse friendly

Published March 31, 2021

All great workplaces try to be as accessible and open as possible to everyone, regardless of who they are. We often see a lot of effort devoted to making workspaces more accessible for people with physical disabilities, or more culturally inclusive… but often Neurodiversity can be overlooked in designing a friendly and welcoming workplace.

Becoming truly Neurodiverse-friendly can take a lot of time and effort – but there are some simple things you can do right now that can make a huge difference to both existing Neurodiverse employees and potential hires. We’ve gathered a list of our top-five things people can do to make the workplace a better environment for both Neurodiverse people and every employee in general.

1 – Quiet work spaces

For some Neurodiverse people, working in even a slightly noisy environment can be excruciatingly intrusive and painful. This is especially true when trying to focus on technical or complex tasks.

Consider finding a place in your office to devote to “Quiet Working”, where employees are encouraged to be as quiet as possible and considerate of those around them.

If space is a premium or having a quiet working space is a challenge, why not try encouraging a formal “Headphones on” policy? Encourage employees to put noise-cancelling or over-ear headphones on to block out noise and signal to other employees that they would prefer not to be disturbed.

2 – Good Meeting Practices

Unexpected, long, ambiguous or busy meetings can be a big challenge for Neurodiverse people at work. Try setting a series of strict meeting rules to make the times and ways you meet a lot more structured and friendly (your whole organisation will thank you!). Some suggestions include:

  • A minimum of 3 hours notice for starting a meeting.
  • No back to back meetings, and plenty of time in between to reset.
  • Ensure every meeting has a clearly defined purpose and outcome.
  • Avoid meetings over an hour and a half maximum.

3 – Consider your channel

It can be tempting to do everything through face to face or video chats, but for many people, it’s more effective to work through less direct or instant channels.

When communicating at work, always consider whether you can start further down the chain of intrusiveness. Each time you’re about to reach out to someone, ask yourself:

  • Does this meeting have to be held in person? If not, do a Video call.
  • Does this call really need Video? If not, use the phone.
  • Could this phone call be done by instant message?
  • Does this instant message really need to be instant? If not… send an email.

It’s tempting to believe that every communication needs to be instant, but often giving people more time to respond and working in a less intrusive way means you can get a better, more thought through response – and can help Neurodiverse people feel much more comfortable and supported at work.

4 – Eye contact isn’t everything

Most leadership and business coaches will tell you – “Eye contact, a firm handshake, positive body language are all critical in business”. Most Neurodiverse people find at least one of those things difficult, if not impossible.

This isn’t just a coincidence – it’s one of the ways the world of work can be extremely frustrating and exclusionary for a Neurodiverse person. Ensuring your whole team can be sensitive to the fact that not everyone is able to use these traditional non verbal communication tools is a great way to take a step towards being more Neurodiverse friendly.

5 – Talk about Neurodiversity

The last point is easily the simplest change – talk to your team about Neurodiversity. Many at work don’t realise that some of those around us may think, learn and perceive the world differently to the rest of us. For many, some Neurodiverse conditions like Autism or Aspergers are terms we hear but don’t fully understand.

Take the opportunity to discuss these things with your team, and open up the discussion to everyone in your organisation to identify what can be done to be more open, engaging and Neurodiverse-friendly.

Tell us what you think

Do you have plans to use any of the tips above to make your workplace more Neurodiverse-friendly? Have you done something that’s not on our list that made a positive impact to Neurodiverse employees? Let us know in the comments below!