Neurodivergence at work
Advice on neurodivergence for managers and staff
Neurodivergence is a term used to describe neurological differences in the human brain. In other words, we are all wired differently, and our natural differences can have a direct impact on how we think and learn. (See What is Neurodivergence?).
While neurological variations can sometimes make it challenging to communicate, express ourselves and interact with others, they also enable strengths and capabilities such as being creative and innovative and having exceptional conceptual and analytical skills.
Neurological differences can include Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and Tourette Syndrome.
Neurodivergence in employment
Neurological differences allow for diverse skills, perspectives and capabilities in the workplace and help create an enriching experience for all.
Strategies for managers of staff who are neurodivergent
- Read the HBR article Neurodiversity as a competitive advantage by Austin and Pisano.
- Identify the specific skills individual staff bring and consider how you can tap into them or have new conversations that come as a result of thinking differently.
- Be supportive of differences such as different communication styles, different approaches to a task, different work environment needs.
- While working remotely or from home has always been a possibility, it is now being practised at scale. The ability to work flexibly whether at home or at work, including office set up, break times and alternative methods of communication is a particularly accessible way of working for those who identify as neurodivergent.
- Ask the employee what accommodations will make them more productive. Many of these accommodations are straightforward; a quieter area to sit, noise-cancelling headphones, adjustments to lighting or ability to wear sunglasses inside where lighting can’t be changed, text-to-voice software, or a place to decompress or eat lunch in private. Read Reasonable accommodations for more information.
Strategies for neurodivergent employees
- Know your strengths: everyone who is neurodivergent has skills and abilities formed from years of doing things a little differently. Think about what you bring to your role and highlight your unique skills.
- Know your limits: you’ve got unique skills, but there may still be some things you cannot do well. Know where you need some extra support to do your best work and ask for that help.
- Get the tech: assistive technology (like ‘Dictate’ on Microsoft, smart pens, noise cancelling headphones, etc).
- Disclosure: decide whether to identify your neurodivergence and to who, when and where. Read Reveal or Conceal - Disclosure in the Workplace and Identifying disability status at the University.
- Manage stress and anxiety: see Neurodiversity Resources for managing anxiety and wellness, materials for success in the workplace and the Mental health and wellbeing webpages on the Equity website. Read How to communicate well at work ASPIES@WORK Autistic Reporter
- Talk to your manager and colleagues about neurodivergence and discuss how they can help to provide a supportive environment at work. Get further support at work from your HR Manager, Staff Equity Manager, and EAP.
- The Neurodiversity Hub based at La Trobe University, Australia, including Comprehensive resources for managers and those who are neurodiverse
- Thinking Differently: Neurodiversity in the Workplace includes strategies for engaging neurodivergent employees. Hult Research
- Tips on studying or working from home for neurodivergent young adults.
- Resources for ADHD Adults ADDITUDE.
- Orion Kelly - That Autistic Guy seeks to break down myths and misconceptions around autism and provide solutions for both employers and people with autism.
- Supporting students Fact Sheets for Staff Supporting Students with Various Disabilities
- Inclusive learning and teaching guidelines
- ADHD New Zealand
- Dyslexia Foundation NZ
- Autism New Zealand