Recognizing the needs of Neurodiverse workers is one way for companies to make their environments more inclusive for their employees. But what classifies a worker as “neurodiverse”?
To quote from the AutisticAdvocacy.org, Neurodiversity “includes neurocognitive differences such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, intellectual disability, and schizophrenia”.
Basically, the chances of you working in a company with someone who falls into this category is high. Maybe you consider yourself to be neurodiverse.
I do want to make something crystal clear: just because you or someone you work with needs a different working environment, it doesn’t mean they’re any less of an employee, friend, mentor, or person.
You should feel supported and encouraged to be able to create that work environment in which you feel happy and productive. Hopefully, you communicate with your manager on your needs, but how can a manager be more supportive for neurodiverse employees in the remote work environment?
If you are a manager, keep in mind, you may never know if your employee categorizes themselves as neurodiverse – and, more importantly, you can’t ask.
Medical privacy is a major working right, and you don’t want to infringe on that. You can make your employee extremely uncomfortable in prying, and you could be in violation of federal law. No one wants, or needs, to lose their job over this.
The best thing you can do as a manager is to be aware that this exists, and make sure you try to address any biases you may have over knowing this information. No need in running a list of employees through your head to wonder who may be depressed, or has ADHD.
Consider their feedback when they ask to work remotely, and provide accommodations if someone approaches you with a request to improve their remote work environment.
Remote work is just part of the equation.
Neurodiverse individuals still may need to take things one step further to make their environment the most productive it can be.
If you notice your employees struggling to stay focused in online meetings, or to hit deadlines, or show progress on their goals, they may simply be overwhelmed with the change of remote work. This doesn’t mean it’s still not the right move for them. It just may mean other things need to happen to ‘fine-tune” how things are working.
One of the first things you can do is make sure you set clear expectations for both parties. Make sure they understand what is expected of them, such as how frequently you plan on checking in, the best modes of communication, and what they should do if they feel things aren’t going as planned. Also, provide clear expectations around meetings, especially the formats and if cameras are expected to be on, or when it’s ok to chime in during the chat.
It’s a great idea to allow flexibility with your employees. If someone has high levels of anxiety, it may be best for them to take an extended break mid-day to decompress from the demands of being “on” all the time. This doesn’t mean work won’t get done – in fact, it’s the opposite.
When workers are allowed to make their own schedule, their productivity usually increases. If an employee approaches you about needing more autonomy with their schedule, when they can attend meetings, or if they prefer to tackle more difficult assignments early in the morning when they’re fresh, reflect and see if you feel like it’s a “deal breaker”. More than likely, it’s not, and you’ll find you can come to a compromise where your remote employee will feel safe and supported.
Another way to support your neurodiverse team members is to minimize chaos. Make sure things are as planned out as possible. This includes scheduling meetings and communications throughout the day.
Remember, remote employees often have a lot of stimuli that indicate they’re needed: email alerts, chat alerts, screen chats, face to face online meetings, etc. It can be a lot to process, and can be mentally draining.
It’s also important that when online meetings are held, especially amongst a group of people, that there is order and organization. Five people trying to speak over one another, people not being able to ask questions, and a lot of visual happenings are overwhelming.
Be sure to take control of these situations before they get out of hand, and make sure everyone knows when they can speak. When you are communicating throughout the day, try to make sure you’re not sending 50 separate requests – group your emails together, and ask to schedule time in advance rather than calling without proper notice. This gives people time to mentally prepare and can make things run much more smoothly.
In the end, listening to what your team is telling you is a trait of a great manager.
Do you best to meet their needs as much as possible, and embrace the differences that make your team so great!
© Human Resources Global