Why the Future of Work is Brighter for Disabled and Neurodivergent Workers

Guest blog post by Jiselle Simmons

Closing the employment gap in the UK can be achieved by welcoming disabled and neurodivergent individuals into the workforce. In a previous article on ‘Enabling Change Through an Inclusive Workplace’, we discussed how organisations can better foster equity and inclusion through bold leadership, comprehensive policies, and an empowering work environment. As more companies realise how these practices ultimately benefit their growth and performance, there is now a fundamental shift in the world of work that promises a brighter future for disabled and neurodivergent workers.

Transforming The Talent Pipeline

Organisations are working to transform the talent pipeline, rather than only preferring or catering to non-disabled and neurotypical individuals. On top of career portals that directly connect disabled and neurodiverse job seekers with inclusive employers, there are also initiatives designed to boost their recruitment rates. A notable example is tech giant SAP’s Autism at Work programme that celebrates neurodiversity with its goal of having at least 1% of their workforce represented by autistic people.

The programme also skips the traditional face-to-face interviews as this process puts autistic people at a disadvantage by expecting them to maintain eye contact and provide well-rehearsed answers. Instead, SAP favours alternative assessments or task-based performances, while offering pre-employment training and workshops that ease the transition for potential employees on the autistic spectrum.

Implementing Policies for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

When discussing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) policies, the mainstream understanding is that these are designed to help women, people of colour, and gender minorities at work. But as observations by LHH on neurodiversity in the workplace indicate, roughly 20-40% of the population can be considered neurodivergent, thereby prompting organisations to also account for larger numbers of workers in their DE&I policies. The policies translate to development and accommodation efforts that nurture the unique skills of neurodivergent workers in creativity, decision-making, and problem-solving.

These include instituting mental health days, offering peer-to-peer or supervisor support, providing additional time for feedback and instruction, and leveraging opportunities for mentorship and coaching. Leaders and managers who self-identify as neurodivergent and are open about their experiences also help other neurodivergent people flourish and feel more comfortable at work.

Making Work Arrangements More Flexible

Many professional settings are designed without disability and neurodiversity in mind. While the pandemic catalysed the shift to flexible work for everyone, this arrangement benefits disabled and neurodivergent workers in particular. Disabled people facing mobility challenges are now given the choice and freedom to work from home. Meanwhile, the executive dysfunction and sensory distractions experienced by neurodivergent people can be addressed through flexible working hours and the redesign of office spaces in terms of acoustics, zoning, and wayfinding. Companies and organisations are working to mainstream such arrangements in the post-pandemic world.

Using Assistive Technology

In the age of digital transformation, businesses and workplaces have introduced tech-based adjustments for their disabled and neurodivergent workers. Rather than programs that take a one-size-fits-all approach to accessibility, the World Economic Forum notes that assistive technology and digital inclusion in the workplace helps. Digital inclusion pertains to the intentional creation of online content that can be accessed and used by everyone.

Meanwhile, assistive technology refers to any device, software, or tool that is specially designed to enable employees with neurodiversity and disabilities to perform their work. There are screen readers and text-to-speech apps to assist employees with vision impairments or literacy challenges; subtitling and transcribing features to help employees who are deaf or hard of hearing during meetings; and digital recorders and timers which serve as memory aids for those who struggle with processing short-term memory.

An ongoing cycle of listening to and learning from the lived experiences of disabled and neurodivergent workers is necessary to ensure that they remain included, valued, and nurtured—no matter their workplace or field.

Guest Post By Jiselle Simmons

Find out more and get in touch with Astriid via our contact page. You may also be interested in our research report – Employment And Long-Term Illness: The Invisible Talent Pool!