neurodiversity in the workforce

In today’s diverse workforce, it’s crucial for businesses to create an inclusive environment that supports the needs of all employees. Neurodivergent individuals, who have unique neurological differences, bring valuable perspectives and talents to the table. To help neurodivergent employees thrive and contribute their best, businesses should prioritize their well-being and provide the necessary support.

In a recent global survey of nearly 1,000 neurodivergent employees, we uncovered what it takes to optimize their work experience. Here are five ways businesses can create an optimal work environment for neurodivergent employees to thrive:

  1. Give employees the freedom and flexibility to work from home.

    Neurodivergent individuals often have different sensory needs and may find it challenging to focus in a traditional office setting. By offering the option to work remotely, businesses can create a comfortable and productive work environment. Remote work eliminates potential distractions and allows neurodivergent employees to structure their workday in a way that best suits their needs.

  2. Encourage people to take regular breaks throughout their workday.

    Extended periods of focused work can be mentally and physically draining for neurodivergent individuals. Heck, it can be draining for anyone. Encouraging regular breaks not only promotes well-being but also enhances productivity. Breaks offer the opportunity to recharge, process information, and regulate sensory input. Employers can educate employees about the importance of breaks and create designated spaces (for those coming into an office) or relaxation areas where employees can unwind and rejuvenate.

  3. Implement company-wide mental health and/or wellness days.

    Mental health is a crucial aspect of overall well-being, and it’s especially important to prioritize in the workplace. By implementing company-wide mental health and wellness days, businesses send a clear message of support to their neurodivergent employees. These dedicated days allow individuals to focus on self-care, engage in activities that promote mental well-being, and seek necessary support. Employers should actively encourage employees to utilize these days for a break from their routine and to prioritize self-care.

  4. Encourage employees to use all their allotted PTO, without repercussions.

    Neurodivergent employees may experience heightened stress or burnout due to the demands of their work and the challenges they face in navigating the neurotypical world. Encouraging the use of all allocated Paid Time Off (PTO) without any negative consequences fosters a culture that values work-life balance and self-care. Employers should communicate that taking time off is not only acceptable but also essential for maintaining optimal performance and well-being.

  5. Foster a culture of flexibility where people can work whenever they work best.

    Flexibility is key to creating an inclusive work environment for neurodivergent employees. Recognizing that individuals have different peak productivity times and work preferences allows employers to accommodate diverse needs. By providing flexible work schedules or options for personalized adjustments, businesses empower neurodivergent employees to work when they are most focused and productive, ultimately leading to better outcomes for both the individual and the organization. 

Looking for more neurodivergent resources? Check out 5 strengths neurodivergent employees bring to the workplace.

Did you know that up to 20% of the global population is neurodivergent? That means they perceive and interact with the world differently than the neurotypical majority, and have one or more neurological differences that may include ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and others. 

While many of these individuals face challenges when it comes to things like social interaction and organization, these obstacles are outweighed by the incredible strengths they bring to the table. When given the space and psychological safety to thrive, neurodivergent people can significantly enrich an organization’s capacity for innovation and problem solving and can help challenge the status quo. 

Based on feedback from a recent global survey of nearly 1,000 neurodivergent individuals, let’s explore the top five strengths of neurodivergent employees and how these strengths can help your business go further, faster: 

1. Creative, flexible, and outside-the-box thinking   

Neurodivergent employees are masters of creative and unconventional thinking. They excel at approaching problems from new perspectives and coming up with innovative solutions. As more conventional work becomes automated with the use of AI, the ability to innovate, think outside the box, and approach problems with entirely different frameworks will become significantly more valuable. 

2. Strong observational skills and attention to detail   

Leveraging their photographic memories, neurodivergent employees possess a remarkable ability to pay attention to the smallest of details. Their self-proclaimed perfectionism drives them to spot the smallest details that others might miss. This ability makes them particularly valuable in roles where accuracy is critical.  

3. Ability to stay focused for long periods of time   

Neurodivergent employees have an impressive capacity to maintain focus for long periods. Their hyperfocus and determination also means that they rarely give up on difficult tasks.  

4. Excellent ability to recognize patterns   

Neurodivergent employees have excellent pattern recognition skills. Their ability for spotting patterns and trends enhances operational processes and improves efficiency across various tasks. This strength proves particularly beneficial in roles that involve customer service and analytics.  

5. Excellent math skills   

Neurodivergent individuals often exhibit extraordinary math and logical reasoning skills.  According to Harvard Business Review’s Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage, neurodivergent individuals possess a unique ability to understand complex mathematics, identify obscure patterns in data, and memorize intricate details that others might miss. 

It’s time for the global workforce to recognize that neurodiversity is diversity. Neurodivergent employees can help organizations break through plateaus that have been plaguing their teams for months, years, or decades because they kept approaching the challenges with the same types of minds. Fresh ways of thinking are especially important during challenging economic times. 

In an ever-accelerating race for competitive advantage, employers who embrace the strengths of neurodivergent employees fully are likely to find themselves moving to the front. Embracing neurodiversity means embracing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to work. The future is about true freedom and flexibility in the workplace. Let people show you their full potential by working where, when, and how they do their best work. 

Talent left behind 

In a tight talent market, can you afford to alienate 20% of potential candidates and employees? What if that 20% held disproportionate capability for accelerated innovation, creative problem-solving, and smashing through plateaus? 

What if you were not only alienating that 20% right now, but—actively or inadvertently—stigmatizing them? 

We’re talking about literally hundreds of millions of people, based on estimated global employment figures. 

What do they have in common? They are neurodivergent. That means they have one or more conditions that lead to them perceiving and interacting with the world differently than the neurotypical majority. These conditions may include ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and others. 

The subject of pervasive discrimination—particularly in the workplace, where neurodivergent people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed and far less likely to hold leadership positionsi—we at Alludo believe neurodiversity is poised for a major reimagining.  

An ambitious new survey 

With a new ERG devoted to neurodiversity—sponsored by a member of our ELT who is outspoken about her own neurodivergence—we’re leading the way on welcoming, embracing, and outright celebrating neurodiversity within our ranks. We truly believe diversity of all kinds leads to better outcomes. According to one study, companies that offer an inclusive environment for neurodivergent workforce segment achieved 28% higher revenue, 30% greater profit margins and about double the net income compared to their competitors.    

What gets measured gets improved, so we wanted to take a pulse on neurodiversity in the workforce today.  

What are employers missing about supporting neurodiversity? 

What do neurodivergent individuals say about how, when, and where they do their best work? 

What benefits can employer gain by better supporting neurodivergent employees? 

How can the future of work take neurodiversity into account to drive better outcomes? 

These are just a few of the questions Alludo set out to answer with a new research project. Alludo surveyed nearly 1,000 neurodivergent individuals and compiled the results in an eye-opening report that should be a must-read for leaders, allies, neurodivergent individuals, and anyone who wants to simultaneously accelerate innovation and tolerance. 

The gap heard ‘round the world 

Respondents report a major gap between the environment needed to leverage their exceptional capabilities, and the environment they’re currently in. While neurodiversity looks different for everyone, respondents report having particular strengths in creativity, flexibility, outside-the-box thinking, observational skills, pattern recognition, and problem-solving.  

The flip side: They frequently reported struggles with signature characteristics of a classic, structured work environment—especially one with in-office mandates. Distractions, interpersonal communication, eye contact, sitting still—none of these make respondents less skilled or talented. They all have the potential to make respondents less able to do their best work. 

What happens next? 

The survey not only into the unique capabilities and challenges of neurodivergent individuals, but how these insights can be evaluated and turned into a better working environment with better outcomes for everyone. We have a long way to go, but this information is a critical first step. 

Read the exclusive full report here. 

i Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics