Helpful Guides

How to Make Your Office More Neurodiverse

By wizu | 14 June 2023

Updated 07/09/2023

Neurodiversity covers a range of the ways in which the human brain functions. Each person’s brain functions in a unique manner. 1 in 7 people in the UK is neurodiverse. But what does this mean ,and how can you, as an employer, create the right work environment for these individuals?

We’ve gathered information about neurodiversity and how to make your office more neurodiverse.

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is a concept that refers to the idea that certain development disorders are normal variations of the human brain. The individuals who have these conditions have certain strengths and weaknesses that may affect their work. For instance, those who have ADHD may have trouble with time management and organisation. On the other hand, they’re very passionate, creative, and driven individuals.

It’s important to understand that neurodiversity is not the same as a disability. However, some of these people may require certain accommodations at work.

Neurodiverse conditions can include the following:

  •     Autism spectrum disorder
  •     Dyslexia
  •     Dyspraxia
  •     And more

This is not an exhaustive list of neurodiverse conditions, but it does give you an idea of what these health issues are. The key is to understand that neurodiverse individuals experience workspaces differently from others. These individuals are usually more sensitive to their physical surroundings. When working in an environment that’s not right for them, neurodiverse individuals may experience stress, anxiety, and other issues that make it challenging to focus and get their work done.

Distractions are one of the main issues that neurodivergent employees must deal with. They may also experience increased sensitivity to other sensory cues in the workplace, such as lighting, noise, and more.

 

Designing for Neurodiversity in the Workplace

So, how should you design for neurodiversity in your office? First, it’s necessary to understand that each employee responds in a different way and performs tasks in their own way.

Designing for neurodiversity requires a nuanced approach. With small adjustments, you can make changes that benefit everyone, allowing each person to use their unique skills more fully. This is the way to create a neurodiverse workspace.

Here are some components of a neurodiverse office:

  • Low-stimulation environments for increased focus
  • Social spaces for stimulation breaks
  • Quiet rooms for more focus
  • Low traffic areas for those who have social anxiety
  • Collaborative hubs to support extraverts
  • Active zones to encourage movement
  • Material and lighting to cue behaviours
  • Layout and furniture to indicate purpose

The neurodiverse office looks much like any other office. However, you can create specific zones that allow employees to work where they’re most comfortable.

 

Create a Sense of Safety and Familiarity

Employees who have neurodiverse conditions usually love repetition, predictability, and clear boundaries. These make them feel safe and in control. They do best in environments that make sense and are easy to get around.

You’ve probably been in an office that’s challenging to walk through. It’s more like a maze. That can cause disorientation in neurodivergent individuals.

As you design your office, consider adding spaces that offer more visual landmarks and clear lines of sight. These may include staircases, mezzanines, and more to help them become oriented to their space.

Signage is another example of office design elements that can be challenging, especially for those who have dyslexia. To help these individuals, consider adding more intuitive environmental clues, such as art pieces or repeating elements from floor to floor and space to space. These work to create a sense of order and to improve navigation.

 

Light & Colour Also Important

Light and colour can also have a dramatic effect on neurodiverse individuals, including those who have ADHD. These employees may struggle with bright, flicking, or unnatural lighting (and the glare) highly distracting.

The fix for this issue is to use more natural light throughout the office in both common and private areas. Natural light can help improve not only their focus but also their overall wellbeing.

Your office doesn’t have many windows? That’s not a problem. Try to use mirrors and other shiny furniture, glossy surfaces, and greenery combined with lighter colours. It’s also beneficial to use soft LED lights that have adjustable settings to create the illusion of natural light.

Collaboration spaces are often furnished with bright colours and lights; however, these can be overstimulating and disruptive for neurodivergent individuals. So, consider using muted tones and warm, dimmable lighting to help these individuals feel more comfortable and able to focus.

Provide Workspace Flexibility

Neurodivergents also process sounds, sights, and smells differently than others. So, it’s essential to allow them ways to control sensory stimuli.

For instance, you may want to consider creating distinctive environments throughout the office where these individuals can choose to go based on their work and sensory comfort levels. Quiet zones can be tech-free spaces with comfy furniture and a calming environment that allows employees to relax and recharge.

Use colours, lighting, art, and other design features that make the space feel cosy. And try to provide lighting, sound, and temperature controls so employees can adjust the spaces in ways that are best for them.

 

Bring Some Nature Into the Office

We’re constantly surrounded by devices, which can be quite overwhelming for neurodiverse individuals. You can consider introducing natural elements into the workspace to balance out the effect of device overload.

Plants are beneficial to mask unpleasant odours and improve air quality in the office. Water features can work to create a sense of calm. Wood and other natural elements create feelings of authenticity and make it easier to connect with nature.

Summing It Up

As more businesses work to create flexible environments that offer more choices for each employee, neurodiverse individuals will have a chance to work in an environment that suits them and boosts their productivity.

A neurodiverse workplace can also give your business a competitive edge. Your employees will feel more comfortable and productive, and your business will attract and retain top talent.

So, consider creating an office that benefits everyone, including your neurodivergent employees. You’ll have a beautiful, unique office design and employees who are happy to come to the office each day.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: What is neurodiversity?
A: Neurodiversity is the concept that neurological differences, such as autism, ADHD, and dyslexia, are natural variations of the human brain and should be recognized and respected.

Q: Why is neurodiversity important in the workplace?
A: Neurodiversity in the workplace fosters innovation, creativity, and diverse perspectives, leading to better problem-solving and business outcomes.

Q: How can I make my office more inclusive for neurodivergent employees?
A: To create a more inclusive office, start with inclusive hiring practices, provide training, create an accessible workspace, foster inclusive communication, and offer support and flexibility.

Q: Are there legal considerations for neurodiversity in the workplace?
A: Yes, there are legal considerations. It’s essential to comply with anti-discrimination laws and provide reasonable accommodations for neurodivergent employees.

Q: What are some common misconceptions about neurodiversity?
A: Common misconceptions include viewing neurodivergent individuals as incapable or assuming that they all have the same abilities and challenges.

Q: How can I promote neurodiversity beyond the workplace?
A: You can promote neurodiversity by supporting organisations and initiatives that advocate for neurodiversity awareness and inclusion.

 

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