Staywell » Blog »
Neurodiversity at work: How Occupational Health can help
There is no standard human brain, and every individual has their own areas of strength and areas where they have more difficulty. This applies no more or no less to people who have diagnosis or traits of neurodiverse conditions. There is increased worldwide awareness of neurodiversity compared to a few years ago, and people who are neurodiverse actually represent around 10% of the overall population. This means that around one in ten employees are likely to be neurodivergent in some way and therefore neurodiversity is a subject that is relevant to most employers.
Some of the more frequently referred to neurodiverse conditions include dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism spectrum disorder/Asperger’s syndrome, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Being neurodiverse is not a health condition or an illness and it is not something that can be cured or treated to make it better. Like their neurotypical colleagues, people who are neurodiverse can have various levels of intelligence. The brains of neurodiverse people function differently to dominant societal views of what is deemed to be normal though, which means that although neurodiverse people can sometimes excel with some tasks or situations compared to their neurotypical colleagues, they can also struggle more with others. If employers try to fit all their employees in the same “box” and expect everybody to perform well with the same parameters, there is high risk of some people failing to perform at their full potential and of there being potential detrimental impact on mental wellbeing in the workforce. However, having some understanding of where the strengths of neurodiverse people lie and how to utilise these, and what they might need support with, can result in a happier and higher performing workforce.
Some employers have already been forward thinking in recognising the skills of neurodiverse people and have built neurodiverse teams for competitive advantage; not utilising talents in this way can be costly to the employer in terms of productivity, and costly to neurodiverse individuals in terms of being disadvantaged in their career paths. It should be noted that people who are neurodiverse may be regarded as disabled under the terms of the Equality Act 2010, which means that employers are obligated to ensure that they are not disadvantaged at work, by making reasonable adjustments at work if appropriate.
Employers are able to refer their neurodiverse employees for assessment with our occupational health clinicians if they want to know how they can support their employee, or if a person with a neurodiverse condition asks to be referred. Our clinicians are skilled in working with neurodiverse people who are referred to them, in identifying their strengths, and any support such as workplace adjustments, that might be needed in order that they are able to fulfil their potential. Our clinicians can also provide information and signposting that can help with arranging diagnosis if this is required, accessing specialist support such as bespoke workplace assessments, and obtaining funding for equipment or other adjustments at work. Our helpful administration staff are on hand to accept such referrals, and please do not hesitate to contact them if you have any queries.