How to support Neurodiverse Employees working remotely during Covid-19
Neurodiversity is a notion that we are all on the same spectrum but some of us are at the far end of the spectrum with individual differences. These might include, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, Asperger’s syndrome (AS) and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).
The neurodiversity movement is helping us to understand that these so-called syndromes or disorders are simply variations of the human brain. Neurodiversity is now understood to be a form of human diversity that is subject to the same social dynamics as other forms of diversity such as gender, race or culture. When embraced, neurodiversity can act as a source of creative potential, in school, employment and life. For example, Autism is usually portrayed as a checklist of deficits, including difficulties interacting socially, problems in communicating, sensory challenges, and repetitive behaviour patterns. The concept of neurodiversity allows us to look at people with autism as uniquely human without discounting their challenges.
During COVID-19 we have become one global population – fighting to stay healthy and protecting our loved one’s from the pandemic, we have all experienced a need to make adjustments. Because neurodiverse people often see the world as chaotic and overwhelming, these situations are a real test of their individual stratagems.
For some, adapting to working from home may have come easy and for others, more of a struggle so imagine what it must be like to have neurodiversity and to have your unique world turned upside down!
We can help our colleagues with neurodiversity by supporting them to continue with organisational systems and maintain a work/life balance.
- Allow them to replicate their workplace routine as much as possible to help with consistency and minimise distraction.
- Encourage them to write daily to-do lists and set calendar reminders; Set deadlines ahead of the official deadline accounting for realistic delays as a result of homeworking.
- Where possible, assign them team tasks to align with individual strengths or the demands of the home environment.
All of us need to maintain team communication but people with neurodiversity who have social interaction differences may have more difficulty communicating on media platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Teams, or the telephone. They may feel overpowered or anxious.
- Let them choose how they want to communicate.
- Discourage ambiguous language and ‘banter’ via telephone and video conferencing.
- Provide as much notice and detail of any changes and how this is likely to impact in advance.
- Give clear instructions and guidelines for task steps and expectations and make them visual if possible.
To support concentration/distraction/ irritability, or fidgety behaviour
- Encourage our colleagues to minimise distractions at home and during working hours, for example, to have some ‘do not disturb time’. If they are distracted by movement, suggest setting up a workstation away from a window and towards the wall, simply turning off device notifications when they are completing a complex task as this will minimise distraction.
- Encourage engagement by utilising assistive technology to minimise mistakes, and teach them mind-mapping techniques to organise thoughts and structure text, and also create
- Ask them to consider working within a 20-25-minute timer and alternate between difficult and easy tasks.
Assistive technology is accessible remotely on most devices. Here are some examples:
- Text to Speech Software: Reads text aloud helping individuals to proofread their work and process information when reading. Some brands also contain additional functions to support reading and writing.
Neurotalent Unlocked e-Learning:
- Line Managers can raise their awareness of neurodiverse conditions and how to support an individual with these conditions.
- Employees can develop softer skills focused on reading, writing, organisation, listening, note-taking and concentrating.