Date Posted: June 6, 2024

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Supporting Neurodiversity: Practical Solutions for Workplace Inclusion
Date Posted: June 6, 2024

In the modern workplace, diversity is celebrated and valued more than ever before, with a growing emphasis on inclusion across various race, gender, ethnicity and more. Yet, amid this progress, there’s an emerging awareness of another critical category of diversity: neurodiversity.

In this blog, we’ll delve into how designers can cater to the needs of neurodiverse employees, to create office environments that truly support and empower everyone.

 

WHAT IS NEURODIVERSITY?

Neurodiversity is a concept that recognises and respects the broad range of differences in human brain function and behaviour, treating these differences as natural variations rather than deficits.

Neurodiversity encompasses various conditions such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and dyspraxia. The term respects these different neurotypes without necessitating the disclosure of specific diagnoses.

The neurodiversity movement advocates for the acceptance and support of these differences, emphasising the importance of creating inclusive environments that accommodate a wide range of cognitive styles and abilities.

 

WHY IT MATTERS

A key initial step in creating a more inclusive workplace is understanding why it matters.

While most people are considered neurotypical, meaning their brain functions and processes information in ways that align with societal expectations, neurodiversity is increasingly crucial in the workplace due to its significant impact on a growing portion of the population.

Approximately 1 in 7 individuals in the UK are considered neurodivergent, though this figure is likely much higher. In April 2024, the BBC reported a five-fold increase in the number of people awaiting assessments with autism specialists since 2019, surpassing the NHS’s capacity to meet the unprecedented demand for evaluation.

Traditionally, office spaces have been tailored to suit the needs of neurotypical individuals, leaving neurodiverse individuals to either struggle in environments that don’t support their best performance or, even worse, face obstacles or exclusion from the workforce altogether. This is evident from the unemployment rate among neurodivergent individuals in the UK, which stands at 30-40%.

 

UNTAPPED POTENTIAL

Despite the concerning statistics surrounding neurodiversity, they highlight untapped potential for companies willing to embrace it. By making the right adjustments, businesses can enhance the performance of existing employees and unlock the talents of new neurodiverse employees.

Neurodivergent workers bring a diverse array of strengths, talents, and skills that benefit organisations across all industries, excelling in roles such as creative work, technical jobs, management, hands-on work, and customer support. According to the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), they possess skills including:

  • Attention to detail
  • Pattern recognition
  • Inferential reasoning
  • Repetition and consistency
  • Managing complex processes

Employers have found success harnessing these strengths in professions such as cybersecurity, data analysis, and software engineering. Neurodivergent workers also excel in communications, social media, design, and innovative thinking, offering unique perspectives that enhance problem-solving and product development. Inclusive cultures report higher team effectiveness and loyalty from neurodivergent employees. Additionally, research shows consumers prefer businesses employing people with disabilities, aligning workforce representation with the customer base and demonstrating community commitment.

 

INTERVENTIONS

So what can be done to support neurodivergent individuals in the workplace?

Supporting neurodiversity goes beyond office design and needs to go hand in hand with company culture and policies, but here’s where good design can play a part:

Incorporate Sensory-Friendly Elements: Designers can introduce elements that cater to various sensory needs, such as adjustable lighting options, noise-absorbing materials, and ergonomic furniture that provides tactile comfort. For instance, using soft textures and materials can create a calming environment for individuals sensitive to touch, while noise-cancelling features can help reduce auditory distractions.

Implement Flexible Layouts: Designing office spaces with adaptable layouts can accommodate different work preferences and sensory sensitivities. This might involve creating designated quiet zones for focused work, communal areas for collaborative activities, and flexible furniture arrangements that allow individuals to customise their workspace according to their needs.

Integrate Nature and Biophilic Design: Incorporating elements of nature, such as indoor plants, natural light, and water features, can have a positive impact on neurodiverse individuals by promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and enhancing cognitive function. Plants, in particular, can improve air quality, regulate humidity levels, and provide a connection to the outdoors, creating a more calming and stimulating environment.

Offer Personalisation Options: Providing employees with the opportunity to personalise their workspace can empower them to create environments that suit their individual preferences and sensory needs. This could involve allowing employees to choose their own desk accessories, adjust the temperature and lighting in their area, or decorate their space with items that bring them comfort and joy.

Prioritise Visual Clarity and Organisation: Designing office environments with clear signage, consistent colour schemes, and uncluttered spaces can support individuals with neurodiverse conditions such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorders. By minimising visual distractions and creating structured, organised layouts, designers can help improve focus, reduce anxiety, and enhance overall productivity in the workplace.

READY TO TRANSFORM YOUR WORKSPACE?

At Benholm Group, we understand the importance of creating inclusive and supportive environments in the workplace. With over 30 years of experience in creating, installing, and maintaining plant displays in offices across the UK, we pride ourselves on thinking outside the box to foster creativity and wellbeing through the power of plants.

If supporting neurodiversity is an important aspect of your client’s next project, or you’re eager to implement changes in your own office space, we’re here to help. Our team regularly carries out site visits to conduct a detailed assessment of the space and will provide tailored recommendations to suit your style, needs, and budget.

Our assessment process involves a comprehensive evaluation of factors such as noise levels, lighting conditions, available space, and traffic flow. We also actively encourage the participation of neurodivergent employees in our design process to ensure that their unique perspectives are considered every step of the way.

With our extensive range of options, including portable planters, portable living walls, and moss walls renowned for their acoustic benefits, we can transform your workspace into a vibrant, inclusive environment where creativity truly blossoms.

Ready to take the next step? Contact us today to schedule your consultation and embark on a journey towards a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment.

01324 861300 | mail@benholm.com

Not only does Nordik Moss look good, but it also makes spaces less noisy too. It has excellent sound-absorbing properties, helping dampen noise and improve working conditions in almost any indoor environment.
The colour green has been shown to increase productivity and reduce stress, making it an excellent choice for an office environment. It’s also known to be a calming colour that can help increase focus and reduce anxiety.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Blog: The Psychology of the Colour Green

Research: Fresh Evidence Underlines the Connection Between Green Walls and Employee Health – Benholm

Try our calculator to see the potential ROI from introducing plants in your space

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