In light of ADHD Awareness Month, new research has shed light on how the design of office environments is contributing to the loss of talented neurodivergent workers within businesses.

The study, commissioned by Motionspot, an inclusive design business, surveyed 1,000 neurodivergent office workers and 1,000 neurotypical office workers to identify key issues faced in the workplace.

Neurodivergence, a term encompassing various neurological differences such as ADHD, autism, Tourette’s syndrome, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and dyscalculia, affects a substantial portion of the workforce. The research discovered that 22 percent of neurodivergent applicants have declined job offers due to specific features in workplaces, in contrast to only 8 percent of neurotypical individuals. Additionally, 15 percent of neurodivergent respondents have left jobs due to workplace design issues.

Of the surveyed neurodivergent office workers, a significant 43 percent identified as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), making it the most prevalent neurodivergence among respondents.

Growing awareness of ADHD

Recent data trends reveal a growing awareness of ADHD, with monthly online searches for the term ‘ADHD’ increasing by 10 percent between August and September 2023. The rising number of adults receiving ADHD diagnoses in the UK underscores the importance of creating workplaces that accommodate diverse needs and conditions.

With 78 percent of neurodivergent employees spending three or more days per week in the office, 18 percent more than their neurotypical counterparts, the study emphasises the necessity for employers to reevaluate their office designs to foster inclusivity.

The primary challenges reported by neurodivergent workers in the office include frequent distractions (35%), anxiety in social situations (35%), fatigue and burnout (34%), brain fog (32%), and sensory overload (31%).

Harvard Business Review research suggests that organisations promoting inclusivity generate 19 percent more revenue. Nevertheless, Motionspot’s research reveals that 22 percent of neurodivergent applicants have turned down suitable job offers due to office environment design issues. Moreover, 15 percent of neurodivergent employees have left jobs because of workplace design concerns.

A variety of workspaces is necessary

The study underscores the importance of offering a variety of workspaces to suit diverse tasks and sensory needs. Preferences among neurodivergent workers include private rooms or ‘nooks’ for private tasks (82%), informal rooms with soft furniture for creative collaboration (70%), private and quiet spaces for resting (64%), informal ‘café-style’ atmospheres (52%), and private sensory rooms (14%).

Jason Slocombe, Neurodiversity Design Specialist at Motionspot, emphasised the significance of this research, stating, “We know from previous research that workplace design has a significant impact on employee experience, but what we were not aware of was how the built environment and the current talent shortage employers are experiencing seem to be related.”

Rebecca C., diagnosed with ADHD and employed at a leading UK university, shared her personal experience, stating, “My current workplace allows me to thrive as it is designed for diversity and choice. Bookable private desk spaces, quieter doors, and less harsh lighting allow me to be my best at work.”

Ed Warner, CEO and Founder of Motionspot, called on businesses to recognise the strengths and unique perspectives of neurodivergent staff, emphasising the need to create workplaces that enable all employees to thrive. As businesses navigate the evolving landscape of work environments, the study serves as a reminder of the importance of inclusivity and design in fostering a diverse and productive workforce.

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.