Ben Power recently wrote about the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce in an article published by the Law Society Gazette. You can read his article here in full.
The word “neurodiversity” is an umbrella term which includes all who may be neurodivergent in some way, including those on the autism spectrum and with conditions such as dyspraxia and dyslexia. Ultimately, it acknowledges that human brains may be wired in many different ways and people will not always think or behave in the same way.
Why does it matter?
Some estimates suggest 10% of the population are neurodivergent. Employers are potentially missing out on a valuable source of highly skilled talent if they ignore the neurodiverse .
How do I recognise if someone is neurodivergent?
One example of neurodiversity is autism (which includes Asperger syndrome). This is a spectrum condition which means that while autistic people share common symptoms, it will affect them in different ways.
Autistic people struggle with social interaction and communication; many have a very literal understanding of language and think people always mean exactly what they say. They may find it difficult to use or understand facial expressions, tone of voice and jokes and sarcasm. Being part of the social world can be really hard for autistic people who may struggle to make eye contact, form friendships or express their emotions.
How autistic people perceive and experience the world is different from others, processing sensory information such as noise and light can be difficult for them so they may seek out isolation.
Bullying can be an issue
Unfortunately, the symptoms of their condition can mean that autistic people are targets for workplace bullying. So while the office “oddball” might be considered fair game for gentle teasing by colleagues, they should pause and consider if this person could be on the autistic spectrum (or neurodivergent in some other way) and be deserving of more understanding and empathy?
Are there any upsides?
Employers who are prepared to tweak how they do things to enable neurodivergent employees to flourish in the workplace will reap the business rewards. For example, people with Asperger syndrome often have above average intelligence and many autistic people have intense and highly-focused interests, their ability to focus on fine detail and collate information is often outstanding, skills that can prove highly valuable in many sectors. Some employers are already starting to recognise this and are actively trying to recruit a more neurodiverse workforce.