Designing the Ideal Workplace for the Neurodivergent

Empowering each and every one of your employees to work without boundaries and to their full potential is important to your company’s long-term success. Making your workplace ideal for all employees, including those who are neurodivergent, will make your workforce far stronger. Neurodivergent people might be autistic, or be affected by dyslexia, dyspraxia, anxiety disorders, ADHD, or similar conditions. Neurodivergent people are very productive and exceptional employees once they are accommodated, but without accommodations they may “slip through the cracks” and move on to another company. 

Neurodiverse people account for a significant amount of the workplace, and sometimes require things that non-neurodiverse people do not in order to thrive. These accommodations are entirely manageable, and generally have terrific potential for returns - a stronger, more accepting, and more confident workforce which empowers its employees. 

Companies all around the world have, or are in the process of, revamping their workplace policies and structure in order to better accommodate neurodivergent employees. Here’s how your business can design the ideal workplace for the neurodivergent and enjoy the many benefits of doing so.

Why workplaces should be accessible to the neurodivergent

Every employee plays a role within your organization, bringing something unique to the table that other employees aren’t necessarily able to replicate. Neurodivergent employees offer a wide variety of unique skills and traits that simply can’t be easily duplicated by other team members. 

They’re able to innovate by thinking outside the box and looking at situations differently. 

With innovation becoming more and more important to businesses everywhere, this ability to look in different directions and think of ideas others don’t or simply can’t is a highly coveted skill. 

The neurodiverse can strengthen projects by bringing new skills and knowledge to the table, and can lend a fresh new perspective that can be extremely valuable to rethinking operations, redefining target audiences, solving problems encountered by customers, or expanding into new markets.

Workplace technology needs to be accessible

In order to succeed in the workplace, your workplace technology needs to work for everybody. Investing in a more accessible set of software tools is extremely important to ensure that all employees can make the most of their workday. Accessible technology allows neurodivergent employees to work without barriers. Supplying team members with accessible technology also shows them that you have their best interests in mind, and that your business truly cares about their user experience.

Your workplace communication and collaboration tools need to be in compliance with accessibility regulations, and wherever possible, should go beyond basic accessibility functions in order to better serve differently abled employees. Technology can be made more accessible by design, making it easier and more straightforward for users to navigate and use apps and tools rather than forcing them to jump through hoops to find what they need.

Improved user experience (UX) can go a long way in making technology easier and more effective, providing employees with assistive technology features and straightforward design. This means not hiding essential functions and options, but rather making it clear that they’re offered. Striking the right balance is crucial in ensuring technology is accessible to employees. Many accessible workplace tech solutions look to reduce distractions and focus on the core functions of an app or tool without making it too minimalist in its design, as this can also lead to a slew of accessibility issues.

Accessible technology could also include features like speech recognition capabilities, screen readers, AI and machine learning, and even the implementation of accessible rich internet applications which make web content easier to access. Even just the ability to do seemingly simple things like zoom in on or enlarge text can go a long way in improving a user’s experience.

Technology that enables employees to work remotely is another form of accessibility, as some neurodivergent team members may not be able to easily work in an office environment. Cloud technology solutions allow colleagues to collaborate and communicate from anywhere, making working from home far easier by keeping everybody in the loop through video conferences, chat features, real-time collaboration, instant file and document sharing, and more.

Minimize stressors in the workplace

Designing a more neurodiverse workplace will also require that stressors in the workplace are reduced and minimized. Things like sounds, bright lights, smells, and even the colour of walls and the layout of your office space should be rethought in order to be more friendly to the neurodivergent. 

These things could easily serve as stressors to all employees, and making them more accommodating is easily doable at very little cost and effort. Not only can these things be overwhelming and stressful to the neurodiverse, but they can be distracting to neurotypical employees as well. What’s good for one member of the team will turn out to be good for everyone. 

Office lighting can be dimmed in favor of natural light, sounds can be reduced or drowned out by employees wearing headphones, bright colors can be muted or toned down, and employees can be politely asked to avoid strong smells like perfumes. To reduce distractions and stressors, things like app notifications can also be set up to reduce the number of alerts or change how these alerts are delivered to employees. It’s important to encourage employees to take a step away from their workspace when things become too stressful or overwhelming, and be flexible and understanding when these occurrences take place.

Gathering feedback from employees about potential workplace stressors can make it easy for your team to work on a way to minimize or eliminate them entirely. Your employees spend a great deal of time in the workplace, so it’s important that the space works for everybody to encourage productivity and efficiency. 

If employees find the office environment to be too much, it might be a good idea to supply them with the tools needed to work from home. Remote working has become the norm for companies all around the world, allowing employees to operate in a comfortable and controlled environment without falling behind or being unable to work with and communicate with their colleagues.

Understand how your employees prefer to communicate

Neurodivergent employees in your organization will all have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, especially when it comes to communication. Since communication is such an important part of any workplace, it’s your job to better understand how they prefer to communicate. Some may have no problem jumping into a meeting and getting social, whereas others may prefer to use written communication over verbal communication, allowing them to express themselves clearly without running into serious issues like social anxiety. 

Help your employees out by supplying them with tools they can use to better communicate - whether it’s Slack, video conferencing tools like Google Meet, CRM tools which allow them to use SMS to communicate with customers, or even VoIP technology with call transcription features, learn how they want to communicate with colleagues and do whatever you can to accommodate their communication needs. Dyslexic people may need the use of tools like Grammarly to compose emails, for example. 

Neurodivergent people, like everyone in your organization, have the potential to add a great deal to your workplace culture and the ability to bring your business to the next level. Contextualized productivity data offered by Prodoscore can help you better support and empower neurodivergent employees by identifying when they need some extra assistance, whether through enhanced coaching or specialized tools with accessible UI.

By measuring daily activity in your favorite business applications, Prodoscore generates actionable insights about how your employees are working so you can better understand and more effectively help them. After all, your people are your most valuable asset. With visibility into daily engagement you can understand how they spend their time, what solutions they prefer to use, and whether they’re in need of more training. With visibility from Prodoscore organizations can  empower employees through flexibility, ensure accountability, and create a more engaged workforce.

How will visibility impact your business?