Article by Paul Graham, Managing Director at Britvic plc
Workplaces are forever being upgraded and modernised, and yet many still don’t consider the needs of our neurodivergent colleagues when doing so – it says a lot that just one in five autistic people in the UK is in employment. Yet neurodiverse people have a huge amount to offer, especially in this talent drought.
I want to use this article to show employers some ways they can build and champion a neurodiverse workforce and enjoy the benefits of brilliant talent that think a bit differently.
Skills like attention to detail, creativity, the ability to focus on tasks for extended periods, empathy, high productivity – I could go on – are common among neurodiverse people. However, to add these incredible traits and more to your business, employers must foster an environment where all employees feel they can bring their authentic selves to work and feel safe, comfortable and respected when they get there.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will make that possible for you – neurodiversity, by definition, represents a wide array of people – rather you’ll instead need a few things happening at once.
Supporting neurodivergent employees must begin with listening to them.
Britvic’s Belonging network, our volunteer employee-led action group, focuses on listening to our employees and their ideas about how to make our workplace a more diverse and inclusive environment.
Within the Belonging network is B-Seen group. Run by and run for colleagues with disabilities and diverse abilities, this group is dedicated to championing their needs and attracting and retaining their talent.
Our B-Seen network has done some amazing work to-date, including reviewing and revising our company policies to ensure that we’re being as accessible as possible – a notable example being in our home and flexible working policies.
Building a neurodiverse workplace isn’t just about culture, it’s also about the physical workplace you provide as a business.
It will by now be no surprise to you that most offices are designed for neurotypical people and what they need to be productive. But how many of those neurotypical considerations prevent neurodiverse colleagues from being productive themselves? Maybe many, maybe few – there again lies the importance of asking people what they think!
Your physical workspace should refresh and energise your people while simultaneously supporting the different requirements of everyone within the company. It’s important to design your environment, from the colour scheme to the soundproofing – the small details matter – around a variety of needs and ultimately help your people feel seen, heard and accommodated.
On top of your office environment is of course the remote working flexibility you provide. Our flexible working approach – laid out in the Working Well manifesto – is designed to support our neurodiverse colleagues just as well as it does our neurotypical community.
A little while ago we made the decision as a business to focus on output rather than hours – a freedom that plays into everyone’s strengths by allowing them to work in the best way for their unique needs and preferences. Safe to say, it’s been a huge success.
In a working world that, by and large, isn’t built for the neurodiverse community, there’s a lot to be won for the businesses that go against the grain.
Supporting neurodiversity is, first and foremost, the right thing to do. And it’s also an excellent business decision: diversity of thought is a vital feature of any successful business, so why wouldn’t you want to attract and retain workers who are celebrated for finding unique solutions and thinking differently to the rest?
It’s really a no-brainer.
Paul Graham is the Managing Director for Britvic in Great Britain, having held this position since 2012. Prior to Britvic, he worked in a range of commercial roles at both Mars Confectionery and United Biscuits. Paul’s involvement within the soft drinks industry led to him be elected as President of the British Soft Drinks Association in 2021. Paul holds a degree in Management Sciences from The University of Manchester.