April is Neurodiversity Acceptance Month. With that in mind, Ficus, the head of the Neurodiversity Employee Resource Group, generously shared their thoughts on what the last two years have been like for the neurodivergent community, and what workplaces can do to help foster belonging for all workers.
“The shift to a more flexible work schedule and environment has had a profound effect on mental health for a lot of people in the neurodivergent community. It was a big point of discussion in the early days of the pandemic: workplaces that had previously denied work from home accommodation were now finding it feasible. A lot of members of the neurodivergent community felt that this indicated a shift in public perception about this type of accommodation, and accommodation at work overall.
Personally, while I always had the option to work from home, I didn’t realize how much pressure I was feeling to be in the office full-time. My mental health improved by leaps and bounds as the day-to-day stress of existing in an office environment disappeared. I think it’s important that flexibility towards work from home be maintained moving forward. Different people simply have different needs — and can even have different needs at different points in their lives.
One particular area of focus that is important when considering accommodations for and adaptations to the neurodivergent community is communication. Guidelines and instructions should always be made clear and should be relayed in writing as often as possible. Understanding why a task is being done is almost as important as understanding the steps that need to be taken, so be prepared to provide as much context as possible. Time for questions and clarifications is essential, and should always be handled with as little judgment as possible.
Also, don’t rely on your own perception of ‘common sense.’ Different things are going to be obvious to different people. That’s actually helpful for all employees; some of the things that are necessary for neurodivergent employees can benefit every employee. Lean into those as much as possible as a general practice, and then let individual employees tell you if they have additional needs that might affect only them.
Most importantly, think about how your company recruits candidates. Neurodivergent people should be considered throughout the process. Start with recruitment; it’s not enough to simply be prepared for the eventuality that there might be neurodivergent candidates. Instead, expect to see them in your candidate pool. Think about the interview process and what it’s like:
- Do you have options for different types of interviews?
- Does your anti-bias training include information relevant to neurodiversity?
- Do you consult members of the neurodivergent community about your interview process?
- If your process includes some other kind of assessment, are the rules and allowable resources for those made clear?
- Are those options and resources presented openly as available for anyone, or do you require a candidate to ask directly for options?
- How transparent are you in your process overall?
- How clear are you from the top on what a candidate should expect from you?
Taking all this into consideration helps to accommodate neurodivergent candidates, but it also helps to make workplaces better and more diverse overall. You can check out some of the resources below.
There will be bumps along the way. Expect there to be misunderstandings. Handle them with gentle consideration.
Most importantly, remember to be accepting, not just aware. Acceptance and awareness are not the same things. Awareness can encourage harmful stereotypes, but acceptance can help foster a more welcoming and inclusive environment where everyone is able to bring their most authentic self to work.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Neurodiversity in the workplace, here are a few suggestions:
- Check out these recorded webinars on YouTube: Neurodiversity Disclosure in the Workplace and Neurodiversity in the Workplace: The Power of Difference.
- Exceptional Individuals hosts a weekly series of free webinars with ranging Neurodiversity-focused topics. Their past sessions are all available on YouTube. One to highlight that’s particularly related to employment is this resume-writing workshop they did last year.
- For hiring resources with a focus on Neurodiversity, check out AskEarn’s Neurodiversity Hiring Initiatives and Partnerships and BuiltIn’s Why Your Hiring Process Is Screening Out Potential Top Performers.
- For an interactive course on including neurodivergent employees people in both your hiring process and inclusion in the workplace, check out LinkedIn Learning’s Hiring and Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace.
- Exceptional Individuals and Enna provide support for both neurodivergent individuals searching for work opportunities and employers looking to help recruit candidates and support neurodivergent employees.