Subscribe to our newsletter:

6 Ways to Build a Better Workplace for Neurodivergent Employees

Many of us face invisible battles that nobody is aware of, this applies to neurodivergent individuals as they face several challenges in the workforce. Below are six ways to create an inclusive environment where all employees thrive and feel valued both in and out of the workplace.

Did you know that 15–20% of the modern workforce is neurodivergent

Neurodivergence, or the nonmedical term for those whose brains develop and function differently, is becoming a more familiar concept both in and out of the workplace. 

This trending term can refer to differences in learning styles, communication, comfort level in social situations, sensory experiences, or cognitive processing. Some of the common mental health conditions that fall under the neurodivergent umbrella include ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and Down syndrome—but many neurodivergent people do not identify with any of these specifically but rather also experience a difference in the way their brain works.

In our ongoing efforts to make working environments more accessible, equitable, and inclusive, we must account for more than our visible differences. Failure to recognize neurodivergent needs in the workplace can lead to high employee turnover and low retention rates. Employees who feel unseen and unheard are less likely to stick around long-term.

These “invisible disabilities” are often overlooked or not accommodated in the modern workplace, but they’re just as essential to provide accessibility for as physical ones. With that in mind, here are six ways you can work to build a better workplace for your neurodivergent employees.

1. Light and Noise-sensitive Workspaces

One common condition for neurodivergent people is sensory sensitivity, which refers to overstimulation due to heightened processing of their senses. This could include discomfort caused by loud noises, bright lights, uncomfortable textures, or being touched. 

Consider giving your employees an option for reduced-light or low-noise workspaces to accommodate sensory issues. While open floor plans are increasingly popular, creating some “high traffic” and “low traffic” areas can aid in reducing potential overstimulation.

2. Accessible Technology

With remote and hybrid work becoming more prevalent since the pandemic, we have become used to virtual meetings and video calls. Many of us have also become familiar with “Zoom fatigue,” or the difficulty of taking many online calls, which often require more mental effort, physical strain, and nonverbal communication to show more engagement than in-person meetings.

While remote working options are inherently more accessible than the traditional 100% in-office model, it’s still important to incorporate accessibility into the technology you ask your employees to use. Here are a few ideas for making these experiences less cognitively taxing:

  • Offer live captions to give people something to focus on and follow along with.
  • Provide helpful hardware such as a wireless mouse and keyboard so your employees can get some distance between themselves and their screens.
  • Utilize polling features or emoticon reactions to keep engagement without requiring people to speak up. Allow people to drop questions in the chat box rather than having to voice them out loud.

3. Clear and Concise Communication

Another best practice for equitably providing for your neurodivergent employees is to communicate clearly. For example, dyslexic people often struggle to read large blocks of text, so providing a summary or a TL;DR (which stands for “too long, didn’t read,” a standard marker of a summary provided at the top of a message) can be helpful. Additionally, you can improve readability by breaking up chunks of text with headers and bullets rather than using dense paragraphs. 

While aiming to keep your communication accessible to read, we also recommend making it concise. In other words, don’t overwhelm your employees by spamming them with messages, as overfilled inboxes can be distracting and overwhelming. Instead, opt to condense multiple comments into one message where possible. 

Additionally, it is a best practice to communicate your expectations to reduce the number of ambiguous situations where neurodivergent employees must try to infer implied context, norms, or other information.

4. Inclusive Meeting Practices

Meetings can be a challenging environment for neurodivergent employees for various reasons. For example, unplanned, sporadic calls or meetings where no information is provided upfront can bring up a lot of anxiety for some workers. 

Eliminate some of this discomfort and make your meetings more accommodating by incorporating more inclusive meeting practices such as these:

  • Provide a meeting agenda ahead of calls so employees know what to expect.
  • Allow your employees to turn their cameras off in specific meetings to reduce fatigue. 
  • Schedule meetings ahead of time whenever possible. 
  • Make virtual social events optional and provide an itinerary for them. 

5. Flexible Work Policy And Processes

Building an inclusive workplace means accommodating different people’s different needs and work styles. While some people adhere well to a traditional 9–5 schedule, others are more prone to periods of hyper fixation followed by times of distraction. 

By allowing your workers to do their jobs on a flexible work schedule and getting necessary work done within the timing that makes the most sense, you both optimize their work output and show them you trust them. This can be helpful not just for neurodivergent employees but working parents, caregivers, and more.

Regarding processes, many workplaces could offer more flexibility to better correspond to neurodiverse needs. One method is to kick off projects with an open discussion about how the team works best together, implementing helpful practices for all employees.

6. Essential Wellness Benefits

Finally, beyond caring for your neurodivergent employees in the workplace, you should also strive to provide for them outside of it. Here are a few essential wellness benefits to consider offering:

  • Medical and disability insurance
  • Virtual physical and mental health consultations
  • Mental health resources
  • Educational resources around neurodivergence
  • Commitment to accessibility in your products and offerings

Offering competitive employee benefits is a critical factor in retaining and recruiting employees and maintaining productivity and satisfaction. The benefits space is constantly changing, and our team of experts is always researching new strategies to mitigate costs and help you take care of your employees while staying within budget. Learn more about employee benefits options through MBS here.

How We Can Help Your HR Department Be More Inclusive 

By partnering with our industry-specialized team of HR consultants at Merritt Business Solutions, your company can create a more accessible, equitable, and inclusive environment for all employees, fostering a sense of belonging and enhancing overall productivity and satisfaction. Contact us to learn more today!

Share This :

Find Out how we can help your business