In this blog post I will talk about what individual employees can do to support neurodivergent employees in the workplace. It is easy to fall in the trap of thinking that it is purely the job of HR and the line manager to ensure that neurodivergent employees are supported. Whilst HR and the line manager have an important part to play, ultimately all employees can play a part in ensuring that a neurodivergent employee is supported in the workplace. When I am referring to all employees, I want to emphasise that you can still support a neurodivergent employee even if you don’t work with them on the same client/project/team.
Think about what you already do to support other employees
At the end of the day, most of the things that you already do to help support other employees would help support a neurodivergent employee as well. Therefore, you should think about how you already support other employees and use that as a starting point to support a neurodivergent employee. For example, if you are a senior member of the team, you probably already support junior employees by providing clear instructions before they start a task. This would also help a junior employee that is neurodivergent. Note that you may have to tailor some of the ways you support a neurodivergent employee to cater for their specific needs. However, there is a lot of overlap between how you would support a neurodivergent employee and how you would support any other employee.
Make them feel included
To be upfront, neurodivergent employees are the minority in a predominantly neurotypical workplace, and this is particularly true in the corporate world. I know from my experiences that being in the minority can be very difficult to cope with in the workplace, as I sometimes feel that I don’t fit in. One of the best ways to help neurodivergent employees with this feeling of being in the minority is to include them and make them feel that they are part of the team. This is something all employees can do in very simple ways. Examples include:
- Asking for their opinion and/or point of view when there is a team discussion
- Inviting them to any socials that may be planned after work
- Reaching out to them to see how they are doing
These simple things can make a big difference. Ultimately, if you are doing your bit to ensure that a neurodivergent employee doesn’t feel excluded and isolated, then this will help their morale at work. This will lead to greater productivity and better wellbeing, both of which are good for the firm.
Know about the reasonable adjustments that are in place
If the only people that know about the reasonable adjustments put in place for a given neurodivergent employee are HR and the line manager, then the reasonable adjustments are unlikely to be effective. In general, a lot of the reasonable adjustments put in place are related to how the team communicates with the neurodivergent employee. For example, one reasonable adjustment could be to provide written instructions for tasks, even if a video call is needed to discuss the task further. This is a reasonable adjustment that every employee that works with the neurodivergent employee should know about. The line manager or HR should be communicating these reasonable adjustments to you if you work with the neurodivergent employee. However, there is no harm in asking the neurodivergent employee if you aren’t sure about anything.
Another thing that I want to add on the topic of reasonable adjustments, is that reasonable adjustments don’t just have to be purely related to work. Reasonable adjustments can also be extended to things such as company events, the social side of work etc. For example, if you are organising a social where the neurodivergent employee is invited to, reasonable adjustments can include giving information well in advance about what the social entails such as location and expected timings.
Learn more about the challenges that the neurodivergent employee faces
In my opinion, this is the most important point out of the 4. You may think that you should mainly focus on the strengths of the neurodivergent employee. However, it is also equally, if not more important to learn more about the challenges that the neurodivergent employee faces in the workplace. At the end of the day, if you don’t know about the challenges that the neurodivergent employee faces, you have less information to go on when trying to support them. If an employee is open in disclosing that they are neurodivergent, then it is very likely that they would be open in discussing the challenges they face in the workplace. If anything, the neurodivergent employee would be very happy that you want to find out more about the challenges they face and use that information to support them better. If you can support a neurodivergent employee with the challenges they face, then you are giving them a platform for their strengths to shine through.