Just like life outside, the workplace is a hugely diverse environment. We’re all unique with our own life experiences and personal preferences. They shape how we like to work and get things done. Our differences are the reason great things happen in the workplace. And, as we celebrate the strengths that diversity can bring, we must also be proactive in our support.


Neurodiversity is one form of diversity in the workplace. Some neurodiverse employees may need some extra support at work. On this page, we explore what you can do to empower neurodiverse employees. You'll learn how best to offer support, and help those with neurodiverse conditions achieve their best.
 

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is the term used to describe natural variations in the human brain. It relates to differences in the way we think, process, learn and behave. Most people are neurotypical meaning that the brain functions and processes in the way that society expects. Yet 1 in 7 people are neurodiverse meaning they have unique traits. These are characterised as neurodiverse conditions.

Neurodiverse conditions are developmental. That means they are present at birth, but traits develop in childhood and adolescence. Examples of neurodiverse conditions include ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Tourette's syndrome.
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What are the most common neurodiverse conditions in the workplace?

It is estimated that of the global adult population 10% are dyslexic, 5% are dyspraxic, 4% have ADHD, and 1-2% are Autistic. Neurodiversities are grouped into diagnostic conditions to help others understand the challenges that individuals may experience. But every individual will have a different experience, even if they have the same neurodiverse condition. We've identified some common characteristics to help give you some awareness. It's important to get to know your employees on an individual basis, to find out more about their personal experience. 
 
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a behavioural condition. It affects the ability to control attention, impulse and concentration. People with ADHD may experience hyperactivity and impulsiveness. They might become easily distracted and prone to being restless or fidgeting. And, they may find it difficult to maintain their focus. 
Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), is a condition that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. As a spectrum condition, there are many diagnostic profiles associated with ASC. Each is used to help describe the particular autism profile presented by an individual. Some include Asperger syndrome, high-functioning autism (HFA), and pathological demand avoidance (PDA). This means that people with Autism will share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways.

Common challenges for people on the Autism Spectrum include social communication difficulties. For example, understanding both verbal and non-verbal language, and expressing emotion. They may also experience sensory sensitivities, and encounter anxiety in response to change in routine.
Dyslexia is a language processing difficulty. It can cause challenges with aspects of reading and writing, such as spelling and proofreading. Individuals with dyslexia may experience difficulty processing information in their short-term memory. This can mean a difficulty in maintaining focus.They may also find it challenging to concentrate with background noise. 
Dyspraxia is known as a Developmental Coordination Disorder. It affects the ability to plan and process motor tasks. People with dyspraxia will be challenged in physical coordination. They may present with general clumsiness, disorientation, and poor balance. This can cause difficulties in handwriting, typing, and aspects of physical work. 

Individuals with dyspraxia may also have difficulty organising the content and sequence of their language. Dyspraxia can also affect short term memory, causing difficulty in remembering tasks. 
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Guide for employers: Neurodiversity in the workplace

In this handy guide you'll find all you need to know about neurodiversity in the workplace. Download today for free and;
  • Gain more insight into neurodiverse conditions
  • Discover the benefits neurodiversity can bring to your organisation
  • Explore how you can create an inclusive workplace culture
  • Find out how you can support neurodiverse employees
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Creating an inclusive culture

Supporting people with neurodiverse conditions in the workplace requires flexibility. Employers must be willing to adapt the workplace to suit the individual needs of each employee. For this to happen, employers must work to create an inclusive culture. A culture where neurodiversity is accepted, understood, and celebrated!

Just 1 in 10 organisations say that they consider neurodiversity in their people management practices. Working with people with disabilities requires thought and consideration. Creating inclusive recruitment and retainment processes means ensuring equal opportunities for all. Gaining an understanding of how your employees perceive the company culture is a good place to start. It’ll help inform you of what steps you need to take to become more inclusive.

Case study: an example from the Met Police

The Metropolitan Police are working to adapt their diversity and inclusion strategies to better support employees with disabilities. Hear what they're doing, and gain ideas and advice to take back to your own organisation.

1 in 10 organisations say that they consider neurodiversity in their people management practices

Empowering neurodiverse employees

Managing disability in the workplace means creating a diverse workforce. Not only is embracing neurodiversity the right thing to do, it’s also good for business! People with neurodiverse conditions think differently. They bring unique perspectives and strengthen the success of projects and tasks.

Below, we’ll explore the strengths associated with neurodiverse conditions. We'll also identify how you can support neurodiverse employees, and create an environment which helps them to thrive.

Supporting employees with ADHD to achieve their best

ADHD butterfly symbolPeople with ADHD have many associated strengths. Proactiveness and the ability to work well under pressure are a couple. Creative and holistic thinking is another. People with ADHD often make great leaders because they're resilient. They're often able to push past setbacks and adapt new strategies to pursue their goals. Hyperfocus is also associated with ADHD. Individuals that experience hyperfocus are driven by their interests. They're able to focus with deep concentration and energetic drive.

Supporting employees with ADHD to achieve their best means to overcome any challenges. These can include difficulty organising and managing tasks. Maintaining focus throughout the day is another common challenge. Start by asking the employee if they need any extra support. Then discuss what adjustments would benefit them. We’ve provided some examples of simple adjustments below. It might help you to kick start the conversation:
  • Discuss what visual prompts would help aid attentiveness. For example a wall chart, checklist, clock or timer
  • Explore the best method for task instruction. This could include written instructions rather than verbal
  • Adjust tasks to those which suit the individual. For example those that provide structure and stimulate the mind
  • Allow regular breaks and the opportunity for movement throughout the day
  • Offer the opportunity for regular one to one conversations. This can be with a line manager, or neurodiversity champion. The goal is to ensure support as often as required
  • Allow the use of noise cancelling headphones to help block out distractions
  • Provide time-management software to help them prioritise tasks and plan daily activities
  • Offer assistive technology software. This enables them to work in a way that suits them best, and supports task completion

Empowering people with Autism at work

Autism jigsaw piece symbolAutism in the workplace can bring a thorough, creative and attentive approach to tasks. People on the Autism Spectrum are often able to solve problems with creative thinking and superb attention to detail. Routine and structure is important, so autistic individuals are often very punctual. They also have the ability to focus intensely on a given task. Often, they develop special interests. Their passion and enthusiasm in the topic can lead them to hold a high level of expertise.

To empower autism strengths, it's important that autistic employees feel confident and comfortable at work. Some autistic people say the world feels overwhelming. This can cause them considerable anxiety. Sensory sensitivities and a sudden change in routine can impact on this. Many have a very literal understanding of language and struggle with vagueness or abstract concepts. And, some individuals may also find it hard to join in conversations or make small talk. 

The first step in offering support is to find out if the employee feels they need any extra support. Then discover what types of adjustments would benefit them. We’ve provided some examples of simple adjustments below. They might help you to kick start the conversation:
  • Explore the possibility of flexible working hours. This can help to reduce anxieties by making it less stressful for travel and parking. Employees can also choose to avoid large groups of people by starting at a different time
  • Consider desk location. Offer a working area with little noise and distraction. Or, consider creating ‘thinking spaces’ for quiet contemplation, away from the office environment
  • Discuss the best way to plan workload and instruct on task requirements. Clear instruction, structured working, and forward planning are important
  • Explore the idea of a ‘buddy system’. Autistic employees may need extra direction in unforeseen situations. Having a dedicated person available to provide reassurance, support and answers is beneficial
  • Offer the opportunity for regular one to one conversations. This can be with a line manager, or neurodiversity champion. The goal is to offer a frequent channel of support
  • Identify the best way to provide feedback to the individual. Autistic employees can struggle to pick up on social cues, so it helps to be direct yet sensitive. Some people with autism can become anxious if they feel their performance is not perfect. So, it also helps to provide reassurance
  • Allow the use of noise cancelling headphones to help block out distractions
  • Offer assistive technology software. This enables them to work in a way that suits them best, and supports task completion

For more information, check out our resources below:

Encouraging success for people with Dyslexia at work 

Dyslexia circular symbolIndividuals with dyslexia bring to the workplace out of the box, original thinking. They're often able to look at tasks with a holistic and creative approach. Dylexic minds process information visually. That means that they're often able to recognise patterns and see trends in data. They can discover connections that others have missed. Such strengths lend themselves to good problem solving abilities. They also have good verbal communication skills and are very detailed story-tellers.

To harness the power of dyslexia strengths, it’s important to help dyslexic employees overcome challenges. Dyslexia can affect the ability to process information in the short-term memory. Individuals might struggle with concentration, reading, writing and spelling. 

To support employees with dyslexia, begin by asking the employee if they need any extra support. Then, work together to discover what adjustments would benefit them. We’ve provided some examples of simple adjustments below. It might help you to kick start the conversation:
  • Discuss the use of calendars, planners and alerts to support memory challenges
  • Consider desk location and storage facilities. An organised and tidy workspace in a quiet area will help to minimise distraction. This will support concentration
  • Explore the best method of communication for the employee. Clear communication and checking for understanding is important. This can be supported by using a mix of verbal, visual and written formats
  • Offer the opportunity for regular one to one conversations. This can be with a line manager, or neurodiversity champion. The goal is to ensure support as often as required
  • Allow the use of noise cancelling headphones to help block out distractions
  • Provide extra equipment such a talking calculator to help with numeracy difficulties
  • Offer assistive technology software. This enables them to work in a way that suits them best, and supports task completion

For more information, check out our blog all about supporting employees with dyslexia.
 

Helping employees with Dyspraxia to succeed

Dyspraxia foundation logoPeople with dyspraxia are often creative, holistic and strategic thinkers. They have very complex minds that excel at innovation and problem-solving. Dypraxic individuals often have high motivation and a determination to succeed. With a strong sense of empathy, they tend to have a good awareness of others, making them great team members. 

To support employees with dyspraxia in the workplace, help them to overcome any challenges that they may be experiencing. Dyspraxia can cause difficulties in physical aspects of work, including handwriting and typing. It can also affect the ability to plan and organise workload. Short-term memory may also be affected. This can cause difficulty in following verbal instructions, taking part in discussions, and remembering tasks.

Start by asking the employee if they need any extra support. Then work together to discover what adjustments would benefit them. We’ve provided some examples of simple adjustments below. It might help you to kick start the conversation:
  • Discuss the use of visual aids to support memory challenges. Examples include calendars, planners, mind maps, and flow charts. Also consider providing written instructions beside any equipment such as photocopiers and printers
  • Explore the best method of communication for the employee. Written notes for later reference are helpful. Consider providing instructions, meeting notes and task briefs in writing
  • Consider the functionality of desk equipment. What adjustments can support physical challenges? Examples include an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, and providing information about keyboard shortcuts
  • Review desk location, to ensure least distraction for the employee
  • Allow the use of noise cancelling headphones to help block out distractions
  • Offer the opportunity for regular one to one conversations. This can be with a line manager, or neurodiversity champion. The goal is to ensure support as often as required
  • Offer assistive technology software. This enables them to work in a way that suits them best, and supports task completion

Video series: supporting neurodiversity at work

We've joined forces with Lexxic, an an occupational psychology consultancy, to help you support neurodiversity and inclusion at work.

In this video series, we help you to gain a better understanding of neurodiversity. We uncover four neurodiverse conditions, and explore common workplace challenges. And, you'll gain expert advice on how to help neurodiverse employees overcome these.

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Digital inclusion in the workplace

In today’s world, offices are becoming increasingly digital. In fact, 95% of organisations agree that a digital workplace is important. The role of technology in businesses across all industries means that there’s a need to think about digital inclusion in the workplace.

Not every employee reaps the benefits that digital technology can bring to their working day. For example, 59% of companies provide the apps workers want and need, but don’t make them easily accessible. That means 24/7 access, and compatibility across every device. But accessibility issues can come in other forms too.

Within the digital workplace, we're jumping between many platforms, browsers and devices. We’re accessing everything from emails to web pages and PDFs. Most of the information we’re consuming is in the written format. And, we’re responding with typed communication. This doesn’t suit everybody.

That’s where assistive technology comes in.

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What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology describes any device, software, or equipment that supports people with disabilities, and improves their ability to do things in everyday life. They can assist with a range of difficulties, including mobility, memory, communication and literacy challenges. 

Assistive technology examples include:
  • Low vision assistive technology such as screen readers and speech recognition software
  • Assistive reading devices including text to speech software and digital reading guides
  • Memory aids such as digital recorders and digital timers
  • Literacy support including electronic spell checkers and word prediction 

Workplace assistive technology

Within the workplace, assistive technology can come in the form of built-in accessibility features contained in a lot of the popular programs used across organisations. However, going above and beyond, workplace assistive technology includes Saas software like Read&Write.

On average, organisations use 16 SaaS applications. SaaS applications include Slack, Office 365 and Zendesk. They help to keep track of projects, communicate with stakeholders, and manage their customer base. But what about empowering the workforce?

Organisations who invest in the right tools for their staff see an increase in productivity, morale and retention. Read&Write is a literacy and productivity software that empowers employees to work in a way that suits them best. Employees can change the format of their digital documents. They can communicate in their preferred way. And, they gain access to accessibility features including text-to-speech and talk & type dictation. 
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Preventing disability discrimination at work

Doing our best to make sure our neurodiverse employees have what they need to thrive is the right thing to do. Being as supportive as we can also helps prevent disability discrimination at work.

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Disability employment law protects people with disabilities in the workplace. It puts a duty on employers to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to start and stay in work. Disability legislation protects employees and job applicants. Examples include The Equality Act (UK); the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disability Act (US); the Canadian Human Rights Act; and, the Disability Discrimination Act (AU).

Protecting disabled workers rights requires action across recruitment, onboarding, and retainment processes. This includes reasonable adjustments which help staff overcome disadvantage resulting from their disability.

If you've got questions, check out our blog on commonly asked FAQs.

Webinar: Supporting neurodiverse employees

In this recorded webinar, find out all you need to know about navigating employment law. You’ll also hear from one organisation, on how they've created a more inclusive workplace. Gain insight into their new workplace adjustments policy, developed for a diverse staff.

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Achieving Inclusive Leadership

Do you know what it means to be an inclusive leader in today's workplace? In our recorded webinar session, we explore this topic and more. Listen and gain practical advice from three inclusive organisations, EW Group, Department for Transport, and Texthelp.

Case studies - Neurodiversity in the workplace in action

Hear from different organisations on their experiences of neurodiversity in the workplace with our selection of neurodiversity case studies. Each case study demonstrates how assistive technology software, Read&Write, supports employees with neurodiversity at work.

Network Rail

Employing over 38,000 staff, Network Rail delivers a safe, reliable railway for 4.5 million people and businesses every day. Access and inclusion for customers, partners and staff are ingrained throughout their policies and practices.


Discover how Foreign & Commonwealth Office are supporting government staff with assistive technology Read&Write.

Working remotely? Check out our 7 top tips for supporting neurodiverse employees working from home

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