This week it is Neurodiversity Celebration Week. A time to recognise and respect that we don’t all think in the same way.
IASME is proud to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in its work team with 68% of the employees identifying as neuro-diverse. As a company, we offer flexible working conditions, relaxation and exercise sessions, and support and mentoring that is available to all staff.
We spoke to Yvonne Charrot, the wellbeing manager at IASME about neurodiversity in the workplace.
What does the term neurodiversity include?
Neurodiversity is quite a big umbrella term. It includes but is not limited to, autism, ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia. Often people have more than one diagnosis.
What are the challenges that neurodiverse people can face in the work place?
It is probably worth pointing out that neurodiversity is quite broad, and it impacts people differently. If we talk about neurodiversity in the workplace, we are often using the term neurodiversity as an interchangeable word for autism. We don’t often use the term neurodiverse when talking about dyslexia.
The statistics about autism indicate that there can be some big barriers to finding employment. Problems can arise even in the recruitment process which tends to favour the neurotypical person because strong social skills are often needed to navigate the application procedure, especially the interview process.
In the average workplace, there are numerous unspoken rules. If you struggle socially, this can be a problem, as no one tells you the rules, but everyone is expected to know them. Unspoken rules and hidden agendas are quite stressful for many autistic people, change and unpredictability can also be really hard.
Even the environment itself can be very stressful for some people on the autistic spectrum, bright lights, noisy spaces, strong smells and too many people can create sensory distress and overwhelm. Many people on the spectrum struggled at school for the same reasons, and they do not grow out of it, they just grow up but still face the same challenges. Many autistic adults have developed strategies to cope in a world that is not really designed for them, this can be utterly exhausting as well as causing huge stress and anxiety.
What kind of support can be helpful in the workplace?
Many people have said that having a mentor or buddy support at work, someone who can advocate for you is really helpful. Other reasonable adjustments might include changing the lighting or moving someone to sit somewhere quiet. Not everyone is affected in the same way, so it is important to get to know individual people and find out what impacts them personally. It is really about good practice, listening and being supportive to employees.
How does this issue feed into the wider conversation about diversity?
You might ask the question, why diversity? The answer is simple, the population in general is diverse and we need to reflect that back in our work force. We need people with different experiences, different world-views and different ways of thinking as this helps us innovate in a way that is representative of the population. How can we hope to be meaningful, comprehensive or relevant if we only represent a small group of people?
Working as part of a diverse team allows us to appreciate different skills, talents and ways of doing things. At IASME, we are proud that our company culture is one of support, tolerance and kindness as well as commitment, innovation and team work.