What Is Neurodiversity And How It Affects People In The Workplace

Posted April 25, 2024

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” — Maya Angelou

Neurodiversity: A big word for a simple concept. At its core, neurodiversity is simply the idea that different brains work in different ways, and sometimes, that difference is enough to become a distinguishing feature. The workforce has become increasingly diverse, and with that comes a growing recognition and understanding of neurodiversity. 

Data illustrates how prioritizing diversity of all kinds is not only the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint but is also a savvy business decision. Teams with neurodivergent members can be up to 30% more productive. Powerful organizations like JPMorgan Chase, EY, SAP, and Microsoft have reported excellent employee engagement and retention rates after pioneering neurodiversity hiring initiatives. 

What is Neurodiversity? 

It is not unusual for people to think of autism and ADHD when talking about neurodiversity, but the range is quite a bit wider.

People who are neurodivergent may have conditions like autism and ADHD, but this umbrella term also includes dyslexia, dyscalculia, OCD, dyspraxia, synesthesia, and others. These impact how people think, learn, and process information. While these variations can and often do pose challenges, they can also provide advantages in the right situations. Organizations are starting to understand that. 

Neurodivergent individuals look at the world in a way others do not. This can lead them to develop unique skills and talents, make connections, or spot patterns that can drive innovation and creativity for companies that support neurodiversity in the workplace.

Typically, neurodiverse individuals struggle in specific areas. However, some potential strengths and abilities can stem from it. *Sometimes these strengths are referred to as a “superpower,” but there are mixed feelings about the term. To some, it feels dismissive of the struggles neurodiversity also presents.* 

Pattern Recognition

Many neurodivergent people excel at recognizing patterns where others may miss them. This attention to detail can be important for data analysis, quality assurance, and cybersecurity monitoring. For example, people with dyslexia can be very good at rotating objects mentally, giving them an advantage in work requiring spatial reasoning.

Hyperfocus Abilities  

ADHD partially consists of a person’s inability to regulate their focus. This can lead to a state of hyperfocus when invested in something interesting. The ability to hyper-focus and go into a state of intense concentration can allow neurodivergent workers to power through complex tasks and challenges. Just keep an eye out and help them break away at the end of the day if necessary!

Out-of-the-Box Thinking

Diverse neurotypes allow individuals to see the world differently, allowing for more creative, unconventional approaches to problem-solving. This can foster new ideas and product innovations.

Alternative Working Styles

Some people thrive in environments where they can work independently or with more flexibility. It’s also not uncommon for people who are overly productive to sometimes need a “recharge” period with fewer demands. Providing accommodations or allowing staff to take charge of their own schedules for alternative working styles can increase productivity.

Inclusion and Accommodations 

Of course, creating a truly inclusive workplace requires more than recognizing the abilities and advantages of neurodiversity in the workplace. It also involves understanding and educating others on the potential challenges.

Many people, including neurotypicals (people without this type of diversity) benefit from easy, simple accommodations like noise-canceling headphones, minimizing disruptions, such as allowing them to work in a quiet area, written instructions with verbal communication, or just daily walks – something we should all try to fit in! 

By making the workplace more friendly and accommodating through open communication, education, and reasonable accommodations, employers can cultivate an environment where all employees feel empowered to do their best work.

The Business Benefits of Neurodiversity

Leadership in the workplace needs to embrace neurodiverse talent as part of their overall hiring strategy. As workplaces continue evolving, those who learn to foster an environment of inclusion will be well-positioned for greater creativity and groundbreaking ideas. Sometimes, that work requires an extra set of hands. Find a CPI location near you to get started.

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