Tips for creating an inclusive neurodiverse wellbeing strategy
Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that covers all forms of neurodivergence. Around one in seven people are considered neurodiverse and this is likely to increase with greater awareness and refining of assessments. It is important to note that neurodiversity is experienced across a wide spectrum – the characteristics of all individuals vary greatly, whether they consider themselves neurodiverse or neurotypical.
For example, an individual may be automatically assigned a role with less verbal interactions if they have identified themselves as autistic but may have strong verbal skills. It’s important to also understand someone’s preference and perception of their neurodiversity.
Tips for neuroinclusivity and wellbeing
Workplaces have historically been constructed from a neurotypical stance rather than neuroinclusive. So, trying to ‘fit in’ or ‘masking’ can cause additional stressors or feelings of isolation. While researchers indicate a higher prevalence of burnout, perfectionism and anxiety in the neurodiverse, everyone can be affected. It’s also essential to remember not everyone considered neurodiverse wants to disclose or for others, or there may be little realisation they could be neurodiverse.
Employers need to think about the entire job cycle when considering neuroinclusivity. Offer different forms of communication to improve accessibility, including the use of clear language, to describe exactly what the job entails – for example, informing that communication skills required could include software for speech to text. In addition, allow interview questions to be accessed beforehand.
For all staff it is important to play to their strengths. Below are some key suggestions but working with everyone to develop their own plan is key.
Tools to assist employees
These can be relatively inexpensive, but can make a big difference to staff wellbeing:
- Mind mapping techniques or software can be useful to aid concentration.
- Instant messaging rather than telephone calls if preferred.
- Time management software to keep tasks on track.
- Screen filters to aid reading and reduce distortion of text.
Awareness of sensory impacts
- Adjustable lighting can be useful to those who are sensitive to light.
- Noise cancelling earphones or ‘loop’ earplugs to minimise or focus sound can help noise sensory overload.
- Working in less busy areas can reduce distraction or feeling uncomfortable.
- Avoid hot desking if possible to allow a familiar working environment.
- Lastly, providing a ‘quiet’ room for all employees can be beneficial for taking breaks.
Strategies to work with employees
- Give people time to process and breakdown information. Rapid change without explanation can cause anxiety.
- Use clear and concise language. Be explicit and don’t assume that implicit ‘norms’ for ways of doing things or office politics are understood.
- Consider group coaching for all employees to raise awareness of people’s different working styles and empower them with strategies that work for them.
- Follow a strength-based approach focusing on what people do well to increase confidence. For example, people with dyslexia often see ‘the bigger picture’ while people with autism pay attention to detail.
- Provide feedback and regular check-ins to identify any difficulties early and break tasks into smaller steps if helpful.
- Consider neuroinclusive mentors/champions to understand challenges and signpost.
It requires a proactive stance to create an open-minded environment for people to communicate their needs and feel supported. Ask individuals what they need to support them and ensure line managers are equipped to help provide that support.
In partnership with HCA Healthcare UK
HCA Healthcare UK is a leading provider of cutting-edge treatment across its networks of facilities in London, Birmingham and Manchester, which include partnerships with leading NHS hospitals.