What neurodiverse employees need in the workplace to succeed
Companies who hire neurodiverse employees often fear having to make huge changes in their workspaces, but that’s not true. A few strategic accommodations positively impact not just their employees, but the entire organisation.
The entire organisation needs to be committed to hiring and working with neurodiverse employees.
This culture flows top-down, with top management setting the tone for the rest of the employees.
Sensitization sessions with staff can also help build an inclusive culture where all are welcome. The next step is changing hiring processes. Starting with job advertisements that focus on essential skills rather than extras like communication or teamwork, specifying word counts in application forms, and including options for candidates to request support at interviews are all ways that corporations can make the process more accessible to neurodiverse persons.
Neurodiverse individuals might need to prepare in advance for interviews as this helps them lower their anxiety and be their best selves. Companies can consider sending candidates interview questions beforehand and giving explicit instructions on how to reach the interview venue in the case of offline interviews, or exact time and date of calls for the online format. Apprising them of the flow of events and the people they will meet (with photos if possible) would also help them prepare better.
Further, several companies are replacing interview panels with sequential one-on-one meetings, and asking candidates to demonstrate rather than describe their skills to get a true measure of their talent.
The real test of inclusion comes once the employees start work with the company. This is where the organisation’s true commitment to diversity and inclusion shows up. Companies often work with experts in neurodiversity to understand how to make this a seamless and successful process.
Explicitly clarifying expectations, breaking up tasks, structuring the work environment and setting times for breaks are a few changes that companies are making once their neurodiverse employees are onboard.
As a result, they’re finding huge improvement in efficiency and productivity from them.
Neurodiverse individuals respond to sensory input differently from neurotypical people, and so, just smelling a very strong floor cleaner can negatively impact an employee’s productivity. Keeping this in mind, companies are switching tube lights for softer LED lighting, providing autistic employees desks with partitions and headphones to block out noise, and being mindful of sensory differences.
As the past year has taught us, an individual’s mental health is key to ensure success at work. Depression and anxiety are disorders that have a patina of stigma associated with them, and can often go undetected and untreated for years. In the case of neurodiverse individuals, these are increasingly common. Supporting mental health of all employees needs to be a crucial part of an organisation’s agenda.
Companies need to work on creating an environment and culture that is open and makes support accessible to all. They need to ensure that employees are comfortable talking to their managers and mentors about experiencing difficulties with their mental health, without worrying about how this will impact their performance or prospects within the organisation.
Increasing awareness within all levels, offering addition mental health training to managers as well as support to employees, and creating policies that concretely support mental health are some of the ways that corporations are committing to making it integral to their culture.
Companies need to want to set up their employees for success, and realize that the changes they make to ensure this might be seemingly insignificant, but ultimately, it’s the small stuff that matters.
(Gopika Kapoor is a writer, autism parent and D & I consultant with a focus on disabilities. Her latest book, Beyond the Blue, is the first book by an Indian parent of a child with autism. She lives and works in Mumbai and can be reached at email@example.com)