Neurodiverse employees bring unique skills to their role, according to new research by Bupa UK.
These skills involve problem solving, spotting trends, creativity, and data analysis.
Head of Mental Wellbeing at Bupa, Naomi Humber, says “[w]hilst neurodiverse individuals may face challenges at work – for example, difficulty concentrating or adapting to change – many will think outside the box and be more creative and innovative. This can lead to higher productivity levels than neurotypical employees.”
Embracing neurodiversity within the workplace results in competitive advantages; productivity and innovation would be aided.
However, there are many common misconceptions about neurodiverse individuals, especially within the workplace.
Neurodiverse individuals face numerous challenges at work, since many workplaces are not inclusive of neurodiverse ways of thinking. This can create barriers for neurodiverse employees, and lead to discrimination, pressure, and underperformance.
In support of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, Bupa UK’s research highlights the greater need for neurodiversity awareness in the workplace. Shedding light on neurodiversity, as well as recognising the strengths and talents of neurodiverse staff will challenge stereotypes and misconceptions.
Understanding neurodiversity: what does it include?
Autism, ADHD dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and Tourette’s syndrome are all examples of neurodiverse ways of thinking and behaving.
Debunking one of the biggest myths that neurodiversity only includes autism, Humber stresses that neurodiversity “recognises the biological differences in the way people think and feel and doesn’t solely focus on autism.”
Greater neurodiversity awareness needed in the workplace
Whilst there has been increased awareness of neurodiversity, there is still a long way to go.
Over the last 12 months, employees and employers have turned to Google to understand more about working as a neurodivergent:
- 120% increase in Google searches for ‘neurodiversity at work’
- 91% increase in Google searches for ‘ADHD workplace’
- 86% increase in Google searches for ‘autism workplace’
- 53% increase in Google searches for ‘working with ADHD’
- 22% increase in Google searches for ‘dyslexia at work’
This highlights the need for greater education within the workplace concerning how to accommodate for neurodiverse employees.
Supporting neurodiverse employees within the workplace
Humber suggests two main ways that employers can support neurodiverse individuals within the workplace.
- “Get to know more about your team member’s neurodivergence. For some neurodiverse employees, supportive technology and equipment such as dictation tools or daily planners can be helpful. Consider your working environment, as many aspects of a typical working environments can cause challenges or barriers for neurodiverse employees. For example, bright lights and noisy open-plan offices can be difficult for people with sensory challenges.”
- “Encourage awareness of neurodiversity in the workplace. This can help to educate all employees on the barriers neurodiverse employees face in the workplace, as well as celebrate the unique strengths they bring to a team.”
Also, offering appropriate support to help neurodiverse employees with mental health concerns would be very beneficial.
Whilst conditions such as autism, dyslexia and ADHD are not mental health conditions, neurodiverse people are still at risk of experiencing mental health conditions because of workplace stress or bullying.
Raising awareness of, and understanding, the different neurodivergent conditions should be a top priority for both employers and employees. Greater awareness of neurological conditions would lead to a celebration of a wider variety of skill sets within the workplace.
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.