How can we support neurodiversity in the workplace?

Flat young woman and man helping and growing together. Concept businessman and businesswoman characters relationship, extending a helping hand to colleague. Vector illustration.

My ADHD diagnosis came very late in my working journey, a matter of years ago, as is common for women who are often the victim of late diagnosis across the neurodiverse spectrum due to our exceptional masking and adaptions skills.

It changed everything for me and sent me into, a classically female response, a whirlwind of research and information gathering to try and understand what this meant for me, about me and my future. The great blessing of this was a truly in-depth and considered approach and understanding of the neurodivergent brain which has helped me shape our culture and environment to cater to these impressive and unique individuals.

Interestingly, my own stereotypes and preconceptions were one of the first things I had to overcome when dealing with my diagnosis.

 

I was so caught up in what I thought it meant about me, I was utterly ill-informed.

By proxy I knew we needed to start by neutralising these stigmas as a business, true destigmatisation and a genuinely transparent and safe culture has to be the first step. A lot of lip-service is paid to establishing an open culture but to truly achieve this there has to be an honest commitment from the top, and an agreement that you will make changes and cater to the needs of all your staff not simply the ones it is easy to cater to.

In looking to create this as organically and authentically as possible it was essential to establish a safe lexicon of behaviours and attitudes that made everyone comfortable with conversations around their mental health and that of their colleagues. We joke a lot about leaving meetings or gatherings to go to therapy and starting meetings with breathing exercises but our openness around treatment and the resulting needs has been fundamental in normalising the experience of our neurodivergent team members whilst educating our business as a whole. Practically it has also meant that we are incredibly selective when choosing services or ‘perks’ for the team in order to ensure that things like healthcare cover adequately provide for everyone without discrimination – an extremely challenging task at times given the categorisation of these health concerns by most service providers.

As part of this programme everyone who enters the business provides a great deal of detailed, neurodivergent-friendly, information on how they work and how they like to work with one another. We consciously encourage colleagues to absorb and utilise this information and celebrate the ways of working that come with this. When you unbridle yourself of the working conventions that have dominated the last centuries and take a truly investigative and curious approach to new styles wonderful things can happen. As I write this we are about to embark on the UK four-day-week trial, data for which suggests that it can be transformative for neurodivergent employees as well as business productivity and profitability which makes sense.

When you are focused on the unilateral happiness of your employees, whatever their needs, all that can come is more success and often all that is required is a little bravery.

Samantha LoseyAbout the author

Samantha Losey, Managing Director at Unity, has a true passion for genuinely purposeful, insight-led campaigns having worked across sectors and specialisms to deliver some of the most impactful behaviour change campaigns internationally.

 With a career spanning global brand launches, impact campaigns, local and international strategy and planning, digital and social activations, global toolkits and much besides planning and strategy is where she truly feels at home, surrounded by data and digging for insights. Notable campaigns include Selfridges Project Ocean, This Girl Can, Lloyds ‘Get The Inside Out’, BT Beyond Limits, Sky Ocean Rescue and Public Health England ‘Life Saving Wax’ delivering research, insights and strategy to shift perspectives and behaviours.

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