How to be a good colleague in a neurodiverse workplace?

Photo credit: UN

Yesterday was World Autism Awareness Day. Although autism isn’t in itself a mental health condition, the Mental Health Champions recognise that neurodivergent people often face secondary mental health challenges – particularly when neurodiversity isn’t accommodated in the workplace – so we’ve created this blog post to share some of the ways we can all be good colleagues in a neurodiverse workplace. 

Autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and Tourette’s Syndrome are all examples of neurodivergence. There are many advantages to having a neurodiverse workforce. Still, too often there’s an expectation that neurodivergent colleagues should be the ones to adapt the way we work to fit in with neurotypical colleagues and processes that weren’t designed with us in mind. Not only does that negate the benefits that come from working in a neurodiverse team, but it can be very stressful for neurodivergent colleagues

To minimise that stress, here are some things we can all do to help out our neurodiverse colleagues: 

Learn about neurodiversity and the experiences of neurodivergent people

Many of us have misconceptions or misunderstandings about neurodivergence which can lead to exclusion and discrimination. 

Be willing to make accommodations

These could include things like providing written instructions instead of (or as well as) verbal ones, allowing for flexible work hours, making time for breaks throughout the workday to reduce stress and avoid burnout, and establishing clear guidelines and expectations for meetings and communication.  

Communicate effectively

Communication is key to any workplace, but it’s especially important in a neurodiverse one. Consider using visual aids where relevant, breaking down complex information into smaller parts, and avoiding overly figurative language to ensure that everyone is on the same page. 

Prioritise compassion

In a neurodiverse workplace, it is crucial to prioritise compassion and kindness in our interactions with colleagues. To do this, we must intentionally understand and acknowledge our colleagues’ unique perspectives and needs. It is essential to put aside personal biases and judgments and treat all colleagues with empathy and respect, regardless of their neurodivergent traits which may include difficulties with social interactions. 

Model inclusive behaviour

As colleagues, we set the tone for the workplace culture. By modelling inclusive behaviour, like respecting diverse opinions and working styles, we can create an environment where everyone feels comfortable bringing their full selves to work. 

Through actions like these, we can create a more inclusive and supportive workplace for neurodivergent colleagues. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that everyone feels valued and included. 

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our neurodivergent colleagues for their valuable contributions. We understand that neurodiversity is an essential aspect of our work culture, and we appreciate the diverse perspectives and unique talents that you bring to the table. We are committed to creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and supported.

Thanks to Delivery Manager and Mental Health Champion Jade O’Neil for her contributions towards this piece.

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