Why you should be providing diverse working environments to your employees
With an estimated 1 in 7 people in the UK thought to be neurodivergent, businesses must be aware of how to support the neurodiversity of their employees.
Neurodivergent is an umbrella term that describes people whose brain functions in a way that means they learn, process and experience the world differently from what is considered ‘typical’. Neurodivergence can encompass a range of conditions including Autism, Attention Deficit Disorders, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and more.
Neurodivergent people often have incredible skills that make them an asset to the workplace like strong attention to detail, honesty, or innovative thinking. However, in a world that has largely been designed by and for neurotypical people (those who have brains that function similarly to most of their peers), neurodivergent people often face barriers that can make daily life harder, leading to stress and burnout.
As an employer, you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to support employees who need it. When businesses go above and beyond to create a supportive working environment, and design spaces inclusively, everyone can benefit no matter their neurotype.
Read on to find out how you can create a more inclusive workplace for neurodivergent people…
Understanding Sensory Input
One of the most important considerations when adjusting your workplace to accommodate
neurodivergent people is sensory input. Many neurodivergent people can become overstimulated by their environment due to stimuli overwhelming the senses.
In the workplace, this can mean that stimuli you can sense through touch, sound, sight or smell can become too intense making it difficult to process the information you are receiving, leading to emotional or even physical discomfort. To combat these issues you should consider all of the senses and have a discussion with your employees about what would be most helpful for them.
To assist those who struggle with orientation, provide simple signage with clear graphics and colour coding. Include a neat spacious layout to make navigation simpler. You should also try to break free from visual monotony by avoiding too much repetition in the design and making it easier to identify your surroundings.
Similar techniques can also be useful for those with organisational difficulties. For example, clearly labelled storage solutions, the use of tools like whiteboards to visualise tasks, and giving clear and direct instructions can all help.
Busy patterns and bold colours can be overwhelming for some neurodivergent people. Instead, opt for décor with low-contrast patterns or block colours in muted tones.
Another key visual consideration is lighting, with flickering or bright lighting often being reported as an issue. To address this, opt for soft LED lighting which creates a more relaxing atmosphere and causes less eye strain than traditional office lighting. The most ideal option is lighting with various settings that can adjust the luminosity of the light to suit personal preference.
Depending on the individual, they might like to opt for spaces with lots of natural lighting. However, keep in mind that every neurodivergent person is different and may find that strong sunlight can be problematic. In this case, use plain blinds that block out the light effectively – curtains or blinds that throw patterns can still cause distress.
A loud, bustling office can be an incredibly overwhelming place causing distraction and discomfort. To reduce the cacophony of multiple phone conversations and meetings happening at once, it’s worth investing in office phone booths and office meeting pods.
You could also help those who are sensitive to auditory stimuli by choosing soft furnishings with fabrics that absorb noise to make the space quieter and less echoey, and in turn easier to process.
Another common cause of stress cited by neurodivergent people is the hum of electrical equipment. Be mindful when choosing appliances, opting for a quieter option where possible, and be considerate about where they are placed. It could be worth setting them up to turn off completely when not in use, not only creating a calmer atmosphere but also saving on electricity.
Many neurodivergent people need to withdraw and have some privacy to help prevent or recover from overstimulation caused by socialising with others. For these moments, privacy booths placed away from busy areas can be a haven of peace and quiet.
Soft and smooth textures can provide a source of comfort and grounding for neurodivergent people, while rough and scratchy textures can often be unpleasant. Just be sure to communicate with your colleagues to find out what textures they prefer.
Some neurodivergent people like to ‘stim’, this is where they repeat behaviours to self-soothe or simply because it’s enjoyable. The textures around them can be a big part of that, for example, fidgeting with small items or stroking a smooth surface like bamboo can be relaxing.
As well as the feeling of space, some neurodivergent people might need to be able to move around the space to stay engaged and comfortable and do their best work. Height adjustable desks for example could be a great way to cater for those who need to change position frequently. Or zoning can offer a welcome change in the environment needed when things start to feel stagnant.
As an employer, it might feel difficult to cater to everyone’s different needs, as one person’s access requirements may be the complete opposite of someone else’s.
Solutions such as rented furniture could be a useful option in this case – this might be a cheaper and more environmentally friendly way to cater to people’s needs and change up the environment to work for your team as employees come and go.
Another useful solution is to offer hybrid working. Some neurodivergent people can use up a lot of energy just from starting the day – getting showered and dressed, making lunch, and taking the bus for instance. They can find themselves exhausted before the workday has even begun. Working from home can help conserve some of that energy as well as reduce the number of people in the space, in turn, making it less overwhelming for those who are there that day.
Ultimately, to make your workplace accessible for neurodivergent people, it’s important to have regular conversations and understand that each neurodivergent person is different and may have different needs to each other and on different days.
Be open and patient, and you’ll soon start to see that your team will flourish. The world of work is changing for the better to be more inclusive, and by making some simple adjustments you can help the workplace thrive.
As a company passionate about providing cutting-edge solutions, Fluid Furniture offers a wide range of innovative products that can help you create a more inclusive workplaces.
Find out more about Fluid furniture today: https://www.fluidfurniture.co.uk/