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As office workers settle into remote working as the norm, I can’t help but think about how we can continue to create an inclusive environment for all remote and hybrid workers – including our neurodivergent workers. For one, remote working brings its own unique set of challenges.

 For example, when asked to share their biggest challenges, remote workers often cite social isolation, working across different time zones, building a strong culture, and overworking. And what about neurodivergent workers – those who think and process information in ways that differ from most of your workforce? How can you tailor remote working to the needs of each unique individual?

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodivergence is a term coined by sociologist Judy Singer in 1997. According to Singer, “Neurodiversity refers to the virtually infinite neuro-cognitive variability within Earth’s human population.  It points to the fact that every human has a unique nervous system with a unique combination of abilities and needs.”

 Neurodiversity includes ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette’s syndrome, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. In essence, brains work in different ways. For an autistic person, autism is not a disorder or deficit, rather it is a natural difference in a human population of ‘infinite neuro-cognitive variability.’ By acknowledging neurodiversity, we can see and appreciate this difference as a natural aspect of humanity. It also helps us remove the stigma around disability.

 In my previous posts, I’ve been vocal about the role of inclusivity in the remote working world. Viewed with a neurodiversity lens, this notion becomes even more critical. How can we effectively deal with the neurodiversity of individuals in our organisation? More importantly, how can we help neurodivergent leaders find and get the support they need to thrive?

As a former executive and leader of a financial services firm, I know it can be lonely at the top. I’ve also witnessed first-hand that without mentorship, it can be hard to excel in a leadership role. Currently, as an executive coach, I am similarly aware that this is limited support for neurodivergent working adults. This experience can be isolating – or worse, it can leave individuals feeling left out.

Reasons to hire and accommodate neurodivergent staff

Neurodivergent staff bring a lot to your organisation. They can bring deep focus, productivity, creativity, innovation, and outside-the-box thinking. It’s important to leave your stereotypes at the door because there is incredible diversity within the neurodivergent community. For example, one autistic individual differs from another.

How to accommodate remote-working neurodiverse staff

Here are several steps you can take to make your workplace more welcoming for neurodivergent staff.

Educate staff on neurodiversity. Your colleagues and staff may be unaware of the neurodivergent community and the benefits it can bring. Consider launching an awareness campaign to boost knowledge in this area.

Create a neurodivergent-friendly work environment. It may surprise you to learn that neurodivergent people may be sensitive to common sensory inputs like bright office lights, certain aromas, background noise, and other social cues (like small talk). It’s important to factor neurodiversity into your office design, work schedules and cultural habits.

Optimise your hiring process. According to insight from Deloitte, you can enable the professional success of neurodivergent workers in your workplace by revisiting your hiring process and providing tailored career journeys. For example, you can cast a wider hiring net, re-evaluate your screening criteria and expand the roles available. Additionally, you can offer opportunities to mentor and coach neurodivergent staff throughout their career with your organisation.

Work with an executive coach. To learn more about how neurodiversity can benefit your organisation, please contact Nomena.