2023 - Neurodiversity in the Workplace

The term ‘neurodiversity’ describes brain differences in areas such as manner of learning, attention and social skills.

Examples of neurodivergence include Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and other learning differences.

The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that 64% of Employers admit to having little or no understanding of neurodiverse conditions, and just 22% of autistic adults are in employment.

Traditionally, recruitment and selection processes have excluded neurodiverse people.  Think of those long, wordy job descriptions and extensive interview-and-selection processes many of us have become familiar with.  Furthermore, consider the elements we have all been taught to look out for when interviewing applicants – body language, eye contact, social cues and communications skills.  While for some roles, these factors are important, they are not always essential for every role, and they often do not reflect someone’s ability to do an excellent job.

Just as Employers aim to create workplace cultures where neurotypical individuals can thrive, the same should be done for neurodivergent individuals.  Creating an inclusive environment means that Employers can get the very best from all individuals in their employment, without stifling, limiting or indeed, shutting great talent out.

Each one of us is different – we all thrive in different ways and we all struggle with different problems. In the same way, each neurodivergent individual is different.  Therefore, it is not possible to group everyone together, or to believe that we can create a blanket regime to suit everyone.  For example, someone with autism may perform exceptionally well in dealing with clients over the phone, but they may struggle with face-to-face meetings.  Another person with autism may thrive in a field-based role that has them working out and about, but they may struggle with sensory overload in a loud and enclosed environment such as a busy workplace.  An individual with ADHD may be a creative dynamo and the go-to person for developing exciting projects, but they may also struggle with boredom, disorganisation, and find that they are easily distracted.

So how can Employers create a more inclusive workplace for neuro divergent people?

Job Descriptions and Job Advertising

Take a look at job descriptions.  Are they very lengthy?  Do they contain excessively minute detail?  Do they feature a lot of jargon, industry or otherwise?  When advertising a vacancy, are the adverts very wordy, lengthy, complex and full of jargon? Simple changes to make a job advert or job description short, sharp and concise; with ‘essential’ skills and ‘desired’ skills clearly shown can alleviate some of these stumbling blocks.

A neurodivergent applicant may be more than qualified to carry out the role advertised, but they could be discouraged from applying on the basis of having to wade through what may look like, on the face of it, very complicated and confusing detail.


Are interviews very lengthy? Do they involve multiple processes, steps, tests or meetings?  Is the initial interview conducted by one person, or a panel of interviewers sitting across a room from the applicant?  Are interviews conducted in a quiet room, or in an area just off to the side of a busy working environment?  The style of interview can have a significant impact on whether a neurodivergent applicant feels confident, secure and focused enough to be able to perform at their best. Consider providing all candidates advanced information as to what to expect, and provide contact details of an individual they can speak with privately if they require specific adjustments to support them in the interview process.

Before following the traditional mandate of watching for social cues, body language and communication skills upon meeting the applicant, focus first on the requirements of the role for which the applicant is applying.  Does the applicant have the skills and qualifications to carry out the role, regardless of whether they are able to look the interviewer in the eye, for example?

Management Training

All Managers have the same responsibilities towards their team, but management styles may differ wildly. Therefore, all Managers should receive training in working with neurodivergent individuals. This may involve determining how to make reasonable adjustments for neurodivergent individuals (including Employees who may be neurodivergent but unaware of it, or choosing not to disclose their diagnosis), through to managing forms of communication that some neurodivergent people may struggle with, by ensuring clarity in conversation, simplifying written documents, and providing visuals and diagrams where helpful.  Providing such training can help to alleviate and even remove stressful situations for both Employees and Managers.

Workplace Environment

Some neurodivergent individuals are affected by sensory issues. Some may find bright lighting painful, while other individuals may find that noisy and busy bustling offices are overstimulating or overwhelming.

You will likely have come across supermarkets and retail environments that provide softer lighting on certain days or during set time periods, to prioritise the comfort of neurodivergent shoppers with sensory issues.

In your own workplace, you can review lighting in terms of replacing bright white and stark lighting with softer lighting options.  If your workplace is noisy or fast-moving, provide a quiet room, space or section of the workplace with lower/softer lighting for neurodivergent Employees to go to when they feel overstimulated or overwhelmed.  Where appropriate, the provision of noise cancelling ear defenders may enable them to work successfully in ‘the main office area’ – obviously considering the wider aspect of safety within this.

Internal Communication

While we are increasingly becoming a society where people feel more comfortable and respected in sharing mental health struggles, many neurodivergent people still feel unable to share their diagnoses, for fears that it will limit their Employment options or change how they are treated by Employers and colleagues.

Make a point of sharing information and having discussions that raise awareness in the workplace about neurodivergence, so that all individuals can feel comfortable opening up about their own diagnoses or related experiences.  This standpoint should also make its way into all job advertising, selection processes and recruitment, so that both neurodivergence and neurotypical applicants understand the culture of the workplace and how they can contribute to it and feel comfortable within it.


In the past, society has looked upon neurodivergent individuals negatively, focusing almost exclusively on their weaknesses.  Fortunately, we now live in a time where (most) people are more interested in focusing on people’s strengths, and the benefits and advantages that working well with skilled and knowledgeable neurodivergent, or indeed neurotypical, people can bring. While statistics show that a large proportion of workplaces still don’t know how best to support neurodivergent Employees, it should not be ignored that so many workplaces are now incredibly keen to learn and to take action, and that in itself is another great step towards creating a fully inclusive and diverse working culture in the UK.

If you need further information or support in working with neurodivergent individuals, please do not hesitate to contact us.