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Celebrating Neurodiversity In The Workplace

Australia has a neurodiverse population comprised of people who are either neurotypical or neurodivergent. While we all think and behave uniquely, people with neurological conditions may require extra support. As such, we all thrive in an inclusive environment where our uniquities and differences are celebrated. So, read ahead to learn more about neurodiversity and why workplaces should be more inclusive and supportive of neurodiverse people.

Neurodiversity in the workplace
Published:

21/06/2024

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Converge International

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Celebrating Neurodiversity In The Workplace

Australia has a neurodiverse population comprised of people who are either neurotypical or neurodivergent. While we all think and behave uniquely, people with neurological conditions may require extra support. As such, we all thrive in an inclusive environment where our uniquities and differences are celebrated. So, read ahead to learn more about neurodiversity and why workplaces should be more inclusive and supportive of neurodiverse people.

What Is The Difference Between Neurodivergent & Neurodiversity?

Firstly, what does neurodivergence and neurodiversity mean? Judy Singer, an Australian sociologist and a person with autism, first coined the term neurodiversity to encapsulate and promote greater equality for people with a neurological condition. Furthermore, the term neurodivergence was then used to differentiate a person with a neurodivergence from “neurotypical” people (those who think and behave to the societal standard and do not live with a neurological condition).

You may still be asking what the difference between neurodiversity and neurodivergence is. Well, in summary, neurodivergence is specific to an individual who doesn’t identify as neurotypical. Meanwhile, neurodiversity mainly refers to a collective of neurodivergent and neurotypical people. However, according to Harvard Health, neurodiversity has become more widely synonymous with people on the autism spectrum or people with a developmental or learning difficulty.

Types of Neurodivergences

Some neurodiverse people may not feel comfortable disclosing their condition to their HR team. The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found that two-thirds of neurodiverse workers have not revealed their condition to their employers. This means the extra support needed for day-to-day tasks falls under the radar.

Statistically, the Australian Bureau of Statistics outlined in the 2022 Employee Census that 11% of those surveyed identified as neurodivergent. However, it is widely recognised, as reported by Monash Health, that one in eight Australians are neurodiverse and may have one of the following conditions:

  • ADHD
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Tourette syndrome

To learn more about these conditions, click here

A Lack Of Neurodiversity Represented In The Workplace

Australia’s population is vastly diverse, and everyone has their own needs and unique support requirements. Neurodiversity is legally protected, just like gender, disability, nationality, and ethnicity, neurodiversity is legally protected. There are also many benefits to promoting neurodiversity in the workplace. Therefore, regardless of whether it is law, people with a neurological condition should not be excluded or dismissed during the hiring process.

In the most recent 2018 ABS disability, ageing and carers survey, the unemployment rate for people with autism was 34.1%. Comparatively, the unemployment rate for neurotypical people is only 4.6%. For perspective, it is estimated that 1 in 40 Australian have autism, according to Aspect, who previously thought the ratio was 1 in 70. Therefore, there is an apparent prevalence of neurodiversity in Australia’s population, but it appears that many workplaces are yet to catch up.

Benefits Of Hiring A Neurodiverse Workforce

Indeed, there are many advantages to hiring people with a neurodivergence. Like neurotypical people, people with a neurological condition offer a different perspective and skill set. Evidence by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, hiring a neurodiverse team will facilitate:

  • A difference in workplace thinking.
  • Induce further creativity.
  • Refresh the collective approach when working on tasks.
  • Allow for a different lens when navigating tasks.
  • And many more, including greater focus on the finer, intricate details.

What Organisations Can Do To Ensure They’re Neurodiversity Inclusive

There are a number of ways that workplaces can attract, hire, promote and retain neurodiverse workers. In many cases, it can be as simple as creating a tailored interview process for neurodiverse applicants.

Overall, neurodiverse people should not be overlooked during the hiring process. Here is what the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations said to do when interviewing neurodiverse workers, in addition to when they join the team:

  • Instil open-mindedness and promote inclusivity at all levels.
  • Create an environment where neurodiverse people feel comfortable disclosing their condition.
  • Offer support and workplace adjustments.
  • Destigmatise the recruitment process – no one wants to think they’re a “disability hire”.
  • Give your applicants sufficient time to prepare themselves during the interview process.
  • Focus on their skills or reshape your interview process to encapsulate their skill set.
  • Be honest, transparent, and explicit when discussing the job description and the employment requirements.

Other Strategies For Making Neurodiverse Workers Feel Welcome

Educate your team on neurodiversity and what it means to be neurodivergent. You could implement staff training or introduce a mandatory online module which will offer neurotypical staff an avenue to learn more. Equally, training will help remove stigmas and prejudice, which will champion a more united workforce.

The workplace can also be overly stimulating for many people with a neurological condition. Therefore, readjust their environment to be more sensory-friendly, such as minimising bright lighting, reducing noise and loud music, keeping areas clean and clutter-free, and creating sensory rooms or quiet areas. The world can be very overwhelming for neurodiverse people, so these little steps will help to reduce exclusion.

You’ll Notice The Difference!

As mentioned above, employing a diverse workforce in contemporary society is critical. Equally, those who identify as neurodivergent must have the same opportunities and respect as neurotypical workers.

After all, many industry moguls and pioneers in their trade are neurodivergent, as detailed by the University of Manchester. Virgin founder Richard Branson has dyslexia, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has dyslexia and ADHD, actress Emma Watson has ADHD, and Albert Einstein, the man who gifted humanity with the Theory of Relativity: the building blocks for how the universe works, is suspected of having autism.

In conclusion, having a neurodiverse workforce will not cause your business to suffer. On the contrary, it will open a new world of possibilities, innovations, and skills. If you need assistance, Converge is here to help. If we are you workplace EAP provider, book a session with one of our mental health and well-being experts today through our website or app. Unsure who your EAP provider is? Talk with your HR team to find out.

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