Navigating Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Diversity is something that is celebrated throughout our culture and used as a yardstick to hold ourselves to standards of consideration, humility and compassion. 

We see diversity in our communities as a hallmark of a fair and compassionate society. We view diversity in our workplace as the indicator of a progressive and just employer. Even beyond the human world, biodiversity is a characteristic of a thriving and healthy eco-system; something to be upheld at all costs. However, when the concept of diverging from singularity is applied to our mind in the form of neurodivergence, the issue becomes far more nuanced.

Defining Neurodiversity

Neurodivergence in its most fundamental form can be considered as the route of several psychological conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and stammering. The term neurodivergent is an extremely loaded and complex label that is cause for debate in medical, political, and social spheres. The phrase itself is borrowed from the world of biodiversity and was used to advocate the principle that society would benefit from recognising and developing the strengths of people with conditions such as autism or dyslexia.[1] This re-framing came about in response to the outdated medical and social attitudes that such conditions are mere psychological impairments.[2]

The need for such a reappraisal arose from what has been referred to as the neurodivergent movement. Tired of being unjustly discriminated against by potential employers, this social movement was spearheaded by those diagnosed with neurodivergent conditions. They took severe issue with being categorised as disabled and rallied to present the beneficial aspects of their diagnoses that were being vastly overlooked.[3] Beyond merely being equally as capable as a neurotypical candidate, those who were neurodivergent saw themselves as possessing skills as a by-product of their conditions that could acutely benefit their potential workplaces. While they were viewed through the lens of disability, employers would only view their hiring as a liability and forever be blind to the benefits of their different perspectives, regardless of how apparent they may be.

The Benefits of Neurodivergence

The benefits of neurodivergence have been well-documented through scientific research and literature. Advantages include heightened ability in pattern recognition, memory and mathematics.[4] One such career in which these skills are put to their most effective use is cutting-edge industry data analytics. The ability to interpret vast streams of information and match live statistics with recalled patterns has seen neurodivergent employees outperform their neurotypical colleagues time and time again in this field. However, rather than these benefits being confined to a niche and remote field, neurodivergence is seeing businesses transformed across the employment spectrum.

As those with neurodivergent conditions are atypical, it allows these employees to view issues with a fresh perspective that a neurotypical would merely consider the standard way of doing things. In customer service, for example, a neurodivergent agent was able to spot a recurring customer issue and enabled thousands of clients to fix the issue themselves, saving countless time for both the customers and the company.[5] Furthermore, neurodivergent employees can apply their ability for acute focus and fresh perspective to exacting and repetitive tasks, which neurotypical employees lack the patience and motivation to perform as effectively.[6] In general, several sectors have seen their old procedural methods being innovated to extreme efficiency by the growing number of neurodivergent people in their workforce.

Steps Employers Can Take to Assist Neurodivergent Employees

Despite these clearly documented benefits of the neurodivergent workforce, many employers are slow in adapting the working environment to make it more accommodating for neurodivergent candidates. However, there are effective steps businesses can take, including:

  • Moving Away From Traditional Interview-based Recruitment: These adaptations begin at the very first stage of the recruitment process. Many neurodivergent conditions directly impact interpersonal skills, and candidates often struggle with traditional interview methods. To remedy this issue, companies such as SAP, Microsoft, and Ford have implemented a new recruitment procedure that favours assessing skills directly linked to the position over traditional interviews.[7] The results have been emphatic.
  • A Neurodiverse Workplace: Once a neuro-divergent employee has been recruited, employers can offer assistance to make the workplace more inclusive. Small, practical adjustments like providing noise-cancelling headphones for those with audio sensitivity can make a big difference, and training courses can be offered to the entire workforce that especially consider how managers can better utilise neurodiverse talent.

Advice for Neurodiverse People to Manage Working Environments

While these and many other steps are being taken by employers, there are a number of actions employees themselves can take to mitigate the potential issues they face in the workplace:

  • Be Open with Your Employer: Firstly, and perhaps most important, is to clearly inform their employer of their condition. Only once the workplace has the necessary information about the condition, its symptoms and possible triggers can it then adapt the employee’s environment accordingly. 
  • Preparing for Potentially Challenging Situations: The employee can then make a habit of small practices such as writing down anything they want to say before or during meetings so that they can fall back on their notes if needed.
  • Requesting Support From Other Employees: The employee can also request a work buddy who can help in areas of work such as timekeeping and workload management. This person can also be the first point of contact for any issues they may face.

Supporting neurodivergence isn’t just important for diversity and inclusion.

Neurodiverse people offer a huge amount of efficiency and innovation to any potential workplace, and if given the right environment, can reach the very top of their chosen profession. With the proper support, neurodiverse individuals can bring unique perspectives and traits that are assets we can all learn from.


  1. Doyle, N. (2020). Neurodiversity at work: A biopsychosocial model and the impact on working adults. British Medical Bulletin135(1), 108-125.
  2. Chapman, R. (2020). Defining neurodiversity for research and practice. Neurodiversity studies: A new critical paradigm, 218-220.
  3. Chapman, R., & Botha, M. (2023). Neurodivergence‐informed therapy. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology65(3), 310-317.
  4. Austin, R. D., & Pisano, G. P. (2017). Neurodiversity as a competitive advantage. Harvard Business Review95(3), 96-103.
  5. Austin, R. D., & Pisano, G. P. (2017). Neurodiversity as a competitive advantage. Harvard Business Review95(3), 96-103.
  6. Krzeminska, A., Austin, R. D., Bruyère, S. M., & Hedley, D. (2019). The advantages and challenges of neurodiversity employment in organizations. Journal of Management & Organization25(4), 453-463.
  7. Krzeminska, A., Austin, R. D., Bruyère, S. M., & Hedley, D. (2019). The advantages and challenges of neurodiversity employment in organizations. Journal of Management & Organization25(4), 453-463.

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