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Practical tips to accommodate neurodiversity and break stigma
What do you think of when you hear the word “diversity”?
Most likely, racial diversity springs to mind first. What about diversity of thought? How important is it to recognize, value and celebrate neurodiversity—the many ways in which we think and learn, and experience and interact with the world—in the workplace?
According to Sandra Vaughn, VP of Client Success & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategy at Metrix, doing so is critical to create a workplace where all employees can thrive.
In her presentation during our webinar, DEI – An Introduction: Practical steps, key takeaways and lessons learned, Sandra highlighted the many elements of neurodiversity and the many benefits of including it as a pillar in your corporate DEI strategy.
Neurodiversity refers to conditions that influence how we think, learn and experience the world, including ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, OCD and autism.
Although as many as 15-20% of the population can be considered neurodiverse, Sandra stresses that neurodiversity is often unseen at work, either because it’s hidden in the hustle and bustle of daily tasks, or because the individuals fear self-identifying or asking for extra support due to stigma.
In fact, the Conference Board of Canada found that 50% of surveyed neurodivergent employees were concerned that disclosing their status to employers might restrict career progression or result in other negative consequences.
What can employers do to break the stigma and see the many benefits that fresh perspectives and different ways of thinking can bring to the workplace?
The first step is to understand how neurodivergence, with its range of talents and challenges, manifests at work. Here are a few examples:
The same study from the Conference Board of Canada found that few organizations currently offer workplace accommodations for neurodivergent employees, despite most respondents agreeing they should be available (61% of those with neurodiverse conditions reported stigma at work).
Why does this matter?
As Canada continues to see labour shortages, particularly in certain industries like manufacturing and healthcare, it’s imperative to design a workplace that works for everyone, so you can attract as many talented candidates as possible to join your team.
In addition to expanding your talent pool, supporting neurodiversity in the workplace unlocks diverse perspectives, enhances problem-solving capabilities, improves attention to detail, boosts productivity and efficiency and provides access to untapped skills and expertise. Organizations that do so will also reap the rewards of a more positive company culture by promoting inclusivity. It’s no wonder studies have shown that neurodiverse teams are 30% more productive and make fewer errors than neurotypical ones.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting neurodiverse talent. Diverse challenges and experiences require unique solutions and accommodations.
Since many don’t feel comfortable disclosing their status, Sandra has a tip to find out if your team members need accommodation—just ask. While they may not feel comfortable sharing in the moment, asking the question in a thoughtful, private conversation will bring you one step closer to building a culture of trust.
Over time, as meaningful action is taken, people will gradually feel safe enough to share (for more information on creating a safe space at work, read our blog post on gender and sexual diversity).
Tip: Reflect on ways you can customize accommodations to fit the unique needs of each team member.