Wellbeing

Employers urged to provide support for neurodiverse colleagues 

Almost a quarter of employees with neurological conditions said that working from home during lockdown has made them ‘more aware’ of the challenges they face

O2 has called for an increased awareness of neurodiversity in the workplace after new research reveals 81% of those with a condition such as autism, ADHD or dyslexia feel they could be better supported by employers.

Data from the group, which explored how home working conditions have impacted those with neurodiverse characteristics, does show the positive effect that working remotely can have on those with neurological conditions, as 34% of respondents found that fewer distractions from other people has made them more productive. 

Nonetheless, 23% said that working from home during lockdown has made them “more aware” of the challenges they face.

The most common challenges cited was maintaining focus during virtual meetings (45%), ‘Zoom’ fatigue (44%) and feeling overwhelmed by the reliance on instant messaging platforms (43%).

While 68% of business leaders said they believe neurodiversity should be celebrated in the workplace, 64% admit to having ‘little’ or ‘no’ understanding of the cognitive differences people may have that may make communicating challenging for them. 

Some 40% said this is because the topic isn’t discussed enough, while 33% said they were worried about “saying the wrong thing”.

Working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic has made business leaders more aware of differences in the way their employees work, however, as 48% say they’ve realised how many team members have different working styles. 

According to O2, business leaders have also come to realise the impact that remote working has likely had on neurodiverse employees, with 60% believing that remote working could have made the working day more challenging for those employees.

Kelly Grainger, co-founder and director at Perfectly Autistic, said: “The key thing to understand with neurodiversity is that people’s brains are different and are going to respond differently to the same things within the workplace especially when having to adapt to more remote working. 

“But going beyond increasing understanding, it’s essential that businesses can not only talk the talk but also walk the walk when it comes to neurodiversity support.”

She added: “It’s also important to remember that some people won’t even know that they are autistic, for example I didn’t receive my diagnosis until I was 44 years old. Others won’t want to disclose due to fear of being discriminated against. 

“So as an employer, having a level of understanding and ensuring your whole workforce is aware of how neurodiversity can cause people to work in different ways is key to making those people feel respected, supported and ultimately valued.”

Catherine Leaver, HR director, O2, said: “Having a neurodiverse workforce is really important to having a well-rounded and inclusive team with different talents and perspectives.  

“At O2 we are immensely proud of our inclusive agenda, and always look for ways to improve and increase inclusive representation. We hope these tips, crafted in partnership with Perfectly Autistic, will help other businesses step-up and focus on how they can fully support the neurodiverse talent they employ.”

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