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208: How can you embrace neurodiversity in the workplace?
31st May 2024 • Happier At Work® • Aoife O'Brien
00:00:00 00:14:06

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In the latest solo episode of the Happier at Work podcast, I shed light on an important topic that is gaining more recognition in workplaces around the world - neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity encompasses a range of neurological differences, including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more. These differences are natural variations of the human brain, each bringing unique strengths and challenges to the table.

In this episode I delve into the world of neurodiversity, sharing personal insights and discussing how embracing neurodiversity can lead to a more innovative, inclusive, and productive work environment.

My own journey of discovering neurodivergence and the impact it had on me. From showcasing the benefits of diverse thinking to highlighting the importance of tailored recruitment processes and flexible working arrangements, I provide valuable insights on creating a more inclusive space for all employees.

Research has shown that neurodiverse teams can be 30% more productive than their nondiverse counterparts, emphasising the positive impact of embracing neurodiversity in the workplace.

If you are interested in learning more about neurodiversity, the benefits it brings, and practical ways to support neurodiverse employees, then this episode is for you.

The main points throughout this podcast include:

  • The importance of tailored recruitment processes and flexible working arrangements.
  • Neurodiverse teams can be 30% more productive than their nondiverse counterparts
  • The positive impact of embracing neurodiversity in the workplace.
  • Practical ways to support neurodiverse employees

Do you have any feedback or thoughts on this discussion? If so, please connect with Aoife via the links below and let her know. Aoife would love to hear from you!

Connect with Happier at Work host Aoife O’Brien:







Previous Episodes:

Episode 48: Zoe Routh on Leadership and Self-Awareness

Episode 85: Why Delivering Effective and Constructive Feedback at Work is so Vital with Aoife O’Brien

Episode 200: Reskilling Diversity and Building a Happier Workplace with Bhushan Sethi

Episode 198: Empowering Women at Work with Deirdre McGinn

Episode 174: The Role of Emotions in Workplace Dynamics with Dr. Lola. Gershfeld

Episode 167: Embracing Diversity and Inclusion at Work with Donna O’Connor


Aoife O'Brien [:

Recording in progress. Hello, and welcome to the award winning Happier at Work podcast. I'm your host Aoife O'Brien. And today's episode is all about a topic that I have been talking about quite, quite a lot recently and I got asked about, and it's something I suppose a little bit close to my heart. That topic is around neurodiversity, and I have run a couple of fairly well received LinkedIn audio sessions all about late diagnosed neurodivergence in women. And the reason I did that in the first place was I I went along this is probably it's during the pandemic a 100%. So maybe 3 years ago, 4 years ago, thereabouts, a friend of mine was speaking about her own experience of late diagnosis of ADHD in particular and she was sharing her own experience. And I went in with an open mind.

Aoife O'Brien [:

I went in to support her, not really thinking much beyond that. But as she was talking, things started to click. Things started to sink in for me. Some of the things that she was saying about, I think there were some repetitive behaviors. Certainly, that is something that that I found myself doing. So going along to support her, it opened my eyes a little bit to this experience. And I thought, well, I never thought I had ADHD. I never thought I had autism.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Never thought about myself as being neurodivergent. And this, I suppose, it it just opened up my eyes to a possibility that I could be neurodivergent, and it would explain a lot of things. So I did a bit of research. I started looking into things like what are the traits associated with it and some of the things I found that I could really, really relate to. In particular, like I said, so repetitive behavior, things like listening to songs on repeat over and over and over again, being highly sensitive to rejection. That's something I found throughout my life. Feeling maybe a little bit different in your life as well. So feeling like you are other, that you don't quite fit in.

Aoife O'Brien [:

You don't really belong where you are. So some of those kinds of things really, really resonated. I'll pop some more details in the show notes as well on that. So this prompted me to reach out to a few people and to have these conversations in quite a public forum in in, in in LinkedIn audio, events, essentially. And from that, more and more people have reached out saying thank you so much for having this conversation. There's no one having these conversations at the moment. And I at the time of this recording, I don't have the next event set up yet, but I will be planning to do that quite soon. So keep an eye on the show notes, sign up to my mailing list as well.

Aoife O'Brien [:

If you're not already on my mailing list, definitely sign up there because that will be the first place that I will tell people that this event is happening. So I suppose I want to explain a little bit more, first of all, about what neurodiversity is. And I saw a really interesting graphic recently that explained neurodiversity includes neurodivergent and neurotypical people. So that's kind of the broader term if you like. So neurodiversity includes everything. So it's a term that encompasses a variety of neurological differences, including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and there's more as well. And it's recognized that these differences are natural variations of the human brain, each bringing unique strengths and challenges. In the workplace, embracing neurodiversity can lead to more innovative, inclusive, and productive environment.

Aoife O'Brien [:

And I suppose one of the things to get across is it was always perceived as something that was quite negative, something that we had to hide or be ashamed of. And I'm seeing so, so many people what's the what's the words that I'm looking for? I'm seeing so many people, you know, shouting about their diagnosis or feeling really proud to be a little bit different, whereas previously, it was always seen as this stigma. And I think in some organizations, there is still that stigma associated with it. But this idea is challenging the notion that these neurodivergent individuals are deficit or that they have some sort of deficit or something to be ashamed of. Now something I talk about in my happier at work framework when it comes to values, I always talk about values alignment. And when it comes to culture fit as well, it's really, really important to make sure that we're not just bringing in people who are the same as us all the time. So when I talk about culture and values fit, it's really important to bring in diverse thinking. So having that diversity of thought is so, so important.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Now I wanna talk about some of the benefits associated. So people who have autism might have exceptional attention to detail, strong analytical skills, and deep expertise in specific areas. And I know, certainly, I can very much relate to that, without taking any sort of, assessment or anything like that. And maybe that's a story for another day, but I did go through that process. It wasn't a pleasant experience, still reeling from it, for both autism and ADHD. So I'll I'll fill you in another day on that. And those people who have ADHD can often in creative thinking, problem solving, and bringing high energy and innovative ideas to their teams. And dyslexic individuals might have exceptional spatial reasoning and out of the box thinking.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Now research has shown that diverse teams are more innovative and better at solving complex problems. Neurodiverse employees bring unique perspectives and approaches that can drive creativity and innovation. And from the Harvard Business Review, so the HBR, they found that neurodiverse teams can be 30% more productive than their nondiverse counterparts. And companies like Microsoft, SAP, have recognized these benefits and actively seek to hire neurodiverse talent, which is a fantastic step forward. I wanted to touch on some of the ideas around ways that we can support or ways that we can create more inclusive environments around neurodiversity as well. And so this is very kind of high level view on this. If you do want me to go into more detail, plea do feel free to reach out to me directly through my website happier at, and I'd be happy to elaborate or have a conversation with you about any of these points that we covered. So tailored recruitment processes.

Aoife O'Brien [:

So traditional recruitment tends to focus on the strengths of neurotypical people, and they don't necessarily they're or they're not necessarily inclusive for neurodiverse candidates. So if you have some sort of alternative approaches like a skills based assessment, a job trial, or an inclusive interview technique that allows candidates to showcase their abilities rather than focusing on one specific way of recruiting talent. Having flexible working arrangements then and this doesn't just benefit people who are neurodiverse. This benefits lots and lots of different people. So flexibility in work areas and environments can significantly benefit neurodiverse employees. For example, allowing remote worker flexible schedules can help those who may struggle with traditional 9 to 5 hours. So that's not just for neurodiverse. That's where, you know, a lot of people could benefit from that as well.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Sensory friendly workplaces. So this is something, you know, if you if you've ever gotten into a a drama or a a cycle with someone on in relation to the heating, I was directly below the, in one of the organizations I worked in. I was sitting directly below the air conditioner, and it was really cold all the time. And and there was someone else who wasn't sitting directly below it. And there is this kind of face off between turning the temperature up and turning the temperature down. So didn't realize at the time, but I guess I'm highly sensitive to changes in temperature, and that was really frustrating for me. So understanding it's not too noisy or regulating the temperature in some way. And then having really clear communication and expectations.

Aoife O'Brien [:

I know this is something that I have struggle within work as well. So clear and direct communication can prevent understandings and help neurodiverse employees understand their roles and responsibilities. Visual aids, written instructions, and regular feedback can be really helpful. And again, that's not just something that neurodiverse people will benefit from or, neurodivergent people will benefit from, but actually it's something that everyone, we should be doing this. If you're a leader in an organization, you should be setting really clear expectations and communicating really clearly with people, checking that they fully understand what it is, and they're not just kind of repeating back to you what you said in your words. So checking for that is really, really important as well. And then having training and awareness programs. So I've seen some fantastic examples of organizations just bringing someone in to talk about this, to get it out in the open because there's such a high proportion of people who are neurodiverse.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Maybe they don't even realize that they are. And if you're suspecting based on some of the things that I'm saying today that you either are, you know, you have a, if you have one of these again, what's the word I'm looking for? If you are neurodivergent and if you're looking to get confirmation on that, have a look at some of the traits and symptoms associated with that online. There are I know there's really long waiting lists in Ireland certainly to to get seen about this, to speak to someone about it, but have a look yourself, and there's no problem with self diagnosis either as well if that's something that you think you are. But there could be loads of people who are working alongside people who have who, you know, who are, neurodiverse as well. So having, yeah. So having training and awareness programmes, so educating all employees about neurodiversity to foster more inclusive culture so that people come from a place of understanding and inclusion and training programmes that can help team members to understand and support their neurodiverse colleagues promoting empathy and collaboration. So that is it from me today. A short solo episode today.

Aoife O'Brien [:

I really just wanted to highlight this and get the awareness out there. If you want to dive deeper, do feel free to reach out to me. Thank you so much for listening this far, and I really hope you are enjoying the podcast.




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