More and more companies see the potential in building diverse teams and recognize well that this approach brings greater business benefits. Employees who agree on everything and fit into the established pattern are precious assets. However, it is ingenuity and innovation that is most important. A diverse approach facilitates taking a broader perspective on issues relating to consumer needs.
Many companies realize the benefits of hiring neurodiverse people, but still some are concerned with meeting special requirements to accommodate the special needs of such individuals. Is this purely a matter of social responsibility and a desire to keep up with current standards and trends, or is it also a business benefit?
Neurodiversity in the workplace – table of contents:
- What does neurodiversity mean?
- Neurodiversity presents challenges, but also benefits
- Benefits of neurodifferentiation of the syndrome
- Tailored recruitment interview
- How to prepare a workplace for a neurodiverse person?
- Is it worth opening up to neurodiversity in the workplace?
What does neurodiversity mean?
Neurodiversity in the workplace is a relatively new topic in our society that is still in its cradle. Does this mean that previously this dysnomia did not exist? It doesn’t. Nowadays, we have much more accurate therapeutic tools, thanks to which specialists can recognize symptoms and classify them accordingly.
Therefore, often people from the generation of the 1980s and earlier are only now discovering the truth about what their condition by naming it. Previously, unusual behavior, inability to focus, peculiar worldviews or difficulty in adjusting to social norms were blamed on “character type.”
Even a dozen years ago, the concept of ADHD was in its cradle in the psychological literature, and any mention of it referred exclusively to children and their hyperactivity. Back then, specialists treated it as a disorder and which evoked unpleasant associations. It is safe to say that it was even an insult. At the time, psychologists reckoned that the disorder could also affect adult people. And as we now know, it can and is quite common.
Neurodiversity for years was treated as a disorder or serious dysfunction. Only recently it has gained serious recognition in the context of benefits and opportunities. It should also be emphasized that it is a whole spectrum of maladjustment, so each person on the spectrum should receive individual treatment. While common features such as social maladjustment or sensory challenges can be mentioned here, they will have a different scale and course for each person.
Neurodiversity in the workplace presents challenges, but also benefits
People on the spectrum need to have certain job requirements met to feel comfortable and work efficiently. It is necessary not only to adjust appropriate workstations but also to educate team members about communication with such a person. Here, there is also the concern that other people may rebel a bit against having to adjust their habits or previously prevailing rules.
There’s no denying that working with neurodiverse people presents numerous challenges for co-workers, but you can’t just look at it from that perspective. Many people on the spectrum are great leaders or excellent specialists in their fields. They can demonstrate extraordinary focus or see details that the rest of us can’t.
Benefits of neurodifferentiation of the syndrome
People on the spectrum are characterized by above-average development of certain skills. Although, we should generalize, most of them are characterized by accuracy, meticulousness or the ability to hyper-focus.
It is also impossible to overlook the fact that a neurotypical employee gives a completely different view of a project and introduces a new perspective on the task at hand. While a regular worker looks at the command from a broad perspective, the neurotypical individual considers it in terms of details. Their approaches complement each other and make the team work more efficiently.
This issue is important for yet another reason. Current diagnostic capabilities show that a large part of the population is people on the spectrum.
Having a representative of this group among your employees will make it easier for you to build neurodiversity in the workplace nad as a consequence – create products or services that take their needs into account.
Tailored recruitment interview
The first meeting with a recruiter, especially if the candidate cares very much about the offered position, is a stressful event not only for neurotypical people. The problem is that neurotypical people are far better able to cope with such schemes and can behave according to the norms in place. Conducting small talk, exchanging pleasantries or understanding metaphors appearing in random conversation comes naturally to them.
On the other hand, most people on the spectrum completely fail to handle such “mundane” situations, which may result in misunderstandings. If the recruiter is unaware of the difficulty, he or she may conclude that the candidate is arrogant and completely uninterested in the conversation. This is a big risk for achieving neurodiversity in the workplace.
How do you handle such a situation as a recruiter?
If you know that you are facing a job interview with a person on the spectrum, you can prepare for it properly. Implementing a few simple rules will make things significantly easier. Let’s start with the fact that neurodiverse people receive and convert questions quite differently. Sometimes they may need more time to analyze them, and silence does not at all mean that they have nothing to say. So don’t be afraid to pause and allow time for analysis. The questions themselves should be concise and to the point. Don’t ask sentences like “imagine that…
What else neurodiverse people are afraid of are all sorts of anecdotes or metaphors. Their brains process things quite differently, so what may seem like a hit-at-the-mark comparison or a joke to lighten the atmosphere to you, may cause embarrassment to a person on the spectrum. Try to avoid looping or paraphrasing of various kinds, go for message clarity.
Some neurodiverse people also need extra stimulation at stressful times, so snapping a pen or tapping your fingers on the table should not be frowned upon. Unconventional behavior by neurodiverse people is a common problem that prevents them from seeing their true potential.
How to prepare a workplace for a neurodiverse person?
However, helping a neurodiverse person cannot end at the recruitment stage. The biggest challenge, however, is that each person on the spectrum has his or her own specific needs, and it is impossible to introduce one specific regimen that would be universal for all. It is therefore necessary to approach the subject differently. Firstly, it is necessary to understand the individual employee and how he or she processes the sensory stimuli that occur in the workplace.
It is best to treat workplace adaptation as a time to notice these needs.
When introducing a neurodiverse person into an existing office space, we usually don’t have the opportunity to make spectacular changes or rearrange the entire office. Sometimes, however, really little is enough. What mostly works and is needed not only for neurodiverse people is a place to calm down. It is enough to arrange a small room, where the light will be slightly dimmed and the space itself will be subdued. Increasingly, such rooms are being set up in offices or universities, or even in shopping malls, and are very popular.
A tremendous support for people on the spectrum is an experienced assistant or mentor, who is there to help in difficult situations and is very familiar with the challenges these people face daily. The help of such a person comes as a great relief to the rest of the team. Often it is the case that although everyone is well-versed in theory and knows how they should behave or how to communicate with a neurodiverse person, in practice somewhere this knowledge gets diluted. An assistant can then prove to provide a helping hand for both parties.
Is it worth opening up to neurodiversity in the workplace?
Certainly, today both the labor market and society as a whole are more open to neurodiverse people than they were a while ago. Employers increasingly see potential rather than risk in hiring such people. And that is the right approach. While it requires special accommodations, we should recognize people on the spectrum as an opportunity to discover their potential and its special input to the team. By tailoring working conditions to their needs, you can gain an employee with the extraordinary aptitude your company needs.