Neurodiversity in the workplace

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.

On this page, we explore what you can do to empower neurodiversity in the workplace.

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. 1 in 5 people are neurodivergent meaning their brain functions differently in one or more ways than is considered standard or typical. Their unique traits are often characterised as 'neurodiverse conditions'.

ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Tourette's syndrome are all examples of neurodiverse conditions.

They're diagnostic labels used to explain the diverse ways of thinking, learning, processing and behaving.

As with all people, we each have our talents and challenges. Neurodivergent individuals often bring to the workplace out-of-the-box thinking, creative solutions and more. They may also spend a lot of time trying to adjust their work environment to suit their needs. That's because typically, working environments are set up for neurotypical ways of thinking and doing.

Organisations must create a workplace that welcomes neurodiversity, and allows employees to work and achieve in their own way. That means adjusting the workplace to suit the needs of diverse thinkers. As you continue reading, you'll uncover advice to help you empower neurodivergent employees at work.

A few neurodiverse conditions explained

Of the global adult population, 10% are dyslexic, 6% are dyspraxic, 5% have ADHD, and 1-2% are autistic.

Each of these neurodiverse conditions will be experienced differently by every individual. As Dr. Stephen Shore famously said, "If you've met one individual with autism, you've met one individual with autism".

As an employer, it's important to get to know your employees on an individual basis. That way, you'll find out more about their personal strengths and challenges. However, to help give you some awareness we've identified some common characteristics below.

  • What is dyslexia?
  • What is dyspraxia?
  • What is ADHD?
  • What is autism?
  • What are executive functioning challenges?

Dyslexia is a language processing difficulty associated with challenges in literacy, information-processing, and maintaining focus. People with dyslexia may struggle with reading, writing, spelling, and proofreading, as well as organising details and concentrating in the presence of background noise. However, dyslexia also brings strengths such as pattern recognition, problem-solving skills, and strong verbal communication abilities.

Discover more in our guide to supporting dyslexic employees and hear about the experiences of dyslexic thinkers in these podcast episodes:

Guide for employers: Neurodiversity in the workplace

In this handy guide, discover more 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 neurodivergent employees

Neurodivergent people explain their experiences best!

As an employer it's great to have an understanding of neurodiverse conditions. But it's important to remember that hearing directly from neurodivergent employees matters. After all, they're best placed to share their experiences, and tell you what they need.

This is important not only because every individual will have a different experience of the same neurodiverse condition, but because neurodiversity comes in many forms.

Above, we've explored only 4 of the many neurodiverse conditions that exist. Many more include conditions such as Marfan's Phenotype, explained here by our friend and Biomedical Scientist, Deirdre Williamson.

Whilst proactively educating yourself on as many neurodiverse conditions is great, it's vital to create an inclusive workplace culture. That means, a workplace where employees feel comfortable and confident to discuss challenges and be themselves.

We want to do better. Help us to improve.

We have used the term 'neurodiverse conditions' to provide context to existing diagnostic labels. A neurodivergent employee may disclose a diagnostic condition to access workplace adjustments. However, we realise that this term may not be preferred by everyone. At Texthelp, using language that's inclusive and respectful to all people is important to us. Please let us know if you feel we could do better in the terminology we have chosen to use.

Creating an inclusive culture

As humans, we all want to feel like we belong. Creating a culture that makes everyone feel welcomed, accepted, understood and celebrated matters. For this to happen, employers must be flexible, and willing to adapt the workplace to suit individual needs.

As with all forms of diversity, neurodiversity must be considered.

That means employers are missing out on some simple but effective adjustments they could make to recruit and retain members of the neurodivergent community. Organisations that welcome neurodiverse teams benefit from a workforce of different thinkers. That brings benefits including creativity, innovation, productivity and more.

Why should organizations take neuro-inclusion seriously?

Companies that champion neuro-inclusion unlock the full potential of their workforce, tap into a wider talent pool and drive sustained business success. In fact, these companies report: 30% higher economic profit margins, 28% higher revenue & 2x the net income.

“If companies are not neurodivergent friendly, they’re going to lose out on creativity, new ideas, and lose out on ways to grow their company. Essentially, they’re going to be left behind”

- Peter Shankman, Founder & CEO

An inclusive culture welcomes neurodiversity in all its forms

So far, we've talked about a few different types of neurodiversity (Autism, ADHD, dyspraxia and dyslexia), that are considered as being developmental. That means, neurodivergent traits are present from birth but develop in childhood and adolescence. However neurodivergence can also be acquired, for example as a result of a brain-altering experience.

In the US, acquired brain trauma is the second most prevalent disability. 2.5 million people sustain a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) every year. As a result, over 80,000 people will experience the onset of a long-term disability. As an organisation, it’s important to be ready to support your employees through life’s events, and be prepared to help them adjust to their new way of working and living. Creating an inclusive culture can help you to be more prepared.

Discover more in this case study with Nikki Goode, an employee with acquired brain injury.

Case study: an example from the Met Police

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

Video series: supporting neurodiversity at work

We've joined forces with Lexxic, 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. Explore common workplace challenges experienced by those with dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism & ADHD. Gain expert advice on how to help neurodivergent employees overcome these.

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. With technology having an important role, 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.

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology describes any device, software, or equipment that supports people with disabilities. It 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. These are 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 for Work.

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. It helps 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.

Preventing disability discrimination at work

Making sure neurodivergent 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.

Disability employment law protects people with disabilities in the workplace.

This includes people with a diagnosed neurodiverse condition. It helps to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to start and stay in work. And puts the onus on employers to make it a priority. Disability legislation such as the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disability Act and the Canadian Human Rights Act protects employees and job applicants.

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 neurodivergent 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 workforce.

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. Each case study demonstrates how assistive technology software, Read&Write, supports employees with neurodiversity at work.

Network Rail provides support to all 38,000 employees

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.

Supporting employees through life events

83% of people with a disability acquired their disability later in life, whether due to an accident, illness or genetic condition. Nikki Goode, an employee with acquired brain injury, shares how her organisation supported her return to work. She also explains how assistive technology has been fundamental to her in the process.

Providing essential support

It's our responsibility to make sure every employee can perform to the best of their abilities...Read&Write for Work delivers the best outcome for all staff.

Provide support with our literacy & productivity software

A discreet toolbar, Read&Write for Work helps everyone to work smarter, more efficiently and more confidently than ever before.

Supports people who think, learn and work differently. Helps neurodiverse workforces to thrive.

Further reading

If you want to learn more about how to support neurodiverse thinkers in the workplace, we want to help you in your journey of becoming a more inclusive workplace.

Supporting employees with autism

Employees with autism can face certain challenges at work, but with the right accommodations in place, they can thrive and bring unique benefits to a business. Discover how.

Supporting dyslexic employees

Learn how to support dyslexic employees and bring significant competitive advantages to your business. 

Supporting employees with ADHD

Discover how to create an inclusive workplace that supports employees with ADHD and unlocks the strengths that these employees can bring.

Supporting employees with dyspraxia

Learn how to support employees with dyspraxia in the workplace and discover what competitive advantages they can bring to a business.

Supporting employees with executive functioning challenges

Learn about the effects of struggling with executive function at work, and discover how we can support employees through these difficulties so they can bring their full selves to work.