October is Disability Employment Month – the perfect time to think about how our workplaces accommodate people with disabilities, including those who are neurodiverse. Neurodiversity is the word used to explain differences in how our brains work. Being neurodiverse means having a brain that works differently from the average or “neurotypical” person in various ways. This includes differences in social communication, speech, learning, sensory, or physical behaviors. Some diagnoses include autism, ADHD, and dyslexia among others.
Being neurodiverse should not be considered an automatic disqualification from the job market. There are many ways employers can benefit from hiring such candidates. Employers can consider the experiences of neurodiverse employees and job candidates in a variety of ways:
- Flexibility in working styles and equipment, such as offering noise-blocking headphones and remote or hybrid work options.
- Swaps for sensory sensitivity like replacing fluorescent light bulbs with less-harsh LEDs or incandescent lights, reducing ambient noise, eliminating air fresheners, or creating a sensory-safe segment of the office that is quiet and offers natural lighting.
- Recognize a variety of options for workplace communication, including oral and written reports, videos and live lectures, typed and spoken responses, in-person meetings, and pre-recorded videos.
- Affirm social styles such as people speaking at different volumes, different speaking paces or cadences, those with stammers, and those who are more or less social than others.
Including neurodiversity is a win for the workplace. Research suggests that teams with neurodiversity can be 30% more productive than those without. Neurodivergent team members bring valuable strengths to the team, including visual thinking, attention to detail, pattern recognition, visual memory, and creative thinking, which can help drive new ideas or new ways of thinking needed for team success and innovation. Understanding and leveraging their experiences can open doors to new products, services and under-served markets – bringing new revenue streams.
As a mom to an autistic son, I’m learning the differences in how his mind works and I’m constantly amazed by the strengths it brings to my parenting style and our family dynamic. When workplaces understand the strengths of neurodiversity, they’ll hurry to revamp talent management practices that accommodate and invite neurodivergent candidates to the table. For more ways to make your workplace accessible, check out the our checklist “How to Make your Workplace More Inclusive for People with Disabilities“.
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