Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain can work and interpret information. It highlights that people naturally think about things differently. We have different interests and motivations, and are naturally better at some things and poorer at others.
Although most people are neurotypical, meaning that the brain functions and processes information in the way society expects it is estimated that around 1 in 7 people (more than 15% of people in the UK) are neurodivergent, meaning that the brain functions, learns and processes information differently. Neurodivergence includes Attention Deficit Disorders, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.
Other forms of neurodivergence include Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Tourette’s syndrome. Like other forms of neurodivergence, these bring strengths as well as difficulties.
Neurodivergence is fairly common, so most workplaces are already neurodiverse. Yet, there is still a lack of understanding around most forms of neurodivergence, and misperceptions persist. It therefore makes sense for organisations to take steps that make their neurodivergent staff feel valued, part of the team and supported to contribute fully towards achieving the goals of the organisation.
Creating a more inclusive workplace can:
- highlight the employer’s commitment to diversity and inclusion
- reduce the stigma around neurodivergence
- make staff feel safe and empowered to disclose a neurodivergence
- make it more likely that neurodivergent staff will be treated fairly by their managers and colleagues
- open the organisation up to a pool of talent that may otherwise have been overlooked
- help retain skilled staff and reduce recruitment costs.
Being neurodivergent will usually amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. This means the organisation has a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace and the individual’s role that will remove or minimise any disadvantage to them.
While some time and resource is needed to identify ways to minimise any potential difficulties, there are clear benefits and competitive advantages to having employees who think differently. Positive attributes commonly associated with neurodivergent employees include:
- creativity and innovation
- lateral thinking
- strategic analysis
- bringing a ‘different perspective’
- development of highly specialised skills
- consistency in tasks once mastered.
The health and well-being of staff should be important to employers. Healthy and motivated employees are more likely to perform well, have good attendance levels and be engaged in their work. Many issues are caused by not understanding neurodivergence or how the working environment can affect neurodivergent employees. Making the workplace more accommodating and supportive can reduce much of the stress they often experience and contribute to better mental health.
View new course Neurodiversity in the Workplace Training Course