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How to create a workplace that is more inclusive of neurodivergent employees

How to create a workplace that is more inclusive of neurodivergent employees Photo

WORKPLACE INCLUSIVITY — It is estimated that 15-20% of the population can be classified as neurodivergent, and there is a significant gap in employment between neurodivergent and neurotypical people, but why?

According to the Office for National Statistics only 21.% of people with autism (which is a type of neurodivergence) in the UK are in any form of employment1. In the US that number drops to 15% when looking at college graduates with autism2.

This is the lowest employment rate of any disability. To contextualize this, the employment rate for neurotypical people is 81.3% and the employment rate for disabled people as a whole is 52.1%

But what can we do to shorten this gap? That’s what we’ll try to look at in this article.

What does neurodivergence mean for the workplace?

As neurodivergence is an umbrella term to cover a range of disabilities it is difficult to calculate the overall impact of neurodivergence as a whole, but if we take a look at the way different types of neurodivergence and how they each have an impact on not just the individual workplaces, but on the economy as a whole as well.

For instance, after reviewing empirical data from US studies on ADHD (which is another type of neurodivergence) performed between January, 1990 and June 30, 2011 a group of researchers found that productivity and income losses resulting from adult ADHD summed up to $87 billion to $138 billion annually3.

Similarly the total cost of supporting both children and adults with autism in The United States is estimated to be somewhere between $236 billion and $262 billion4. And a lot of the cost is due to the low employment rate.

It is important to understand that the bigger part of these costs aren’t related to a loss in individual productivity as neurodivergent people aren’t less productive. In fact, some organizations have found that autistic employees are up to 140% more productive than the average employee5.

3 ways facility managers can support neurodivergent people in the workplace

It’s not often that facility management is involved in discussions on workplace inclusivity, but nevertheless FMs are actually uniquely positioned to make offices more inclusive for all employees.

Reducing sensory overload

Whether it is an inability to filter distractions or something more serious, a lot of neurodivergent people are prone to sensory overload caused by noise, light, touch or smell.

And from a facility management perspective these are some pretty simple problems to accommodate. Noise canceling headphones or silent areas can help with noise sensitivity, controlled lighting for desks and areas specifically placed away from kitchens is also a reasonable accommodation that is easy to make.

How to create a workplace that is more inclusive of neurodivergent employees

Providing a quiet place

Both autistic people and people with ADHD can be prone to meltdowns and/or social shutdowns as a result of being overwhelmed. And in a situation where that happens providing a safe space that they can retreat to if this happens can help reduce the anxiety related to managing emotions at work.

Provide routine and predictability wherever possible

For a lot of neurodivergent people predictability helps make daily life at work a lot easier. Knowing exactly what desk they’ll be sitting at or what parking space they’ll be leaving their car in helps remove a lot of the anxiety related to disruptions and can make a huge difference in how productive they manage to be throughout the day.

This is also a very easy accommodation to make either by assigning desks and parking spots permanently or by using software like desk booking and parking systems to give neurodivergent a virtual overview of the different office spaces that they can use to manage expectations.


  1. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/disability/articles/outcomesfordisabledpeopleintheuk/2020
  2. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/most-college-grads-with-autism-cant-find-jobs-this-group-is-fixing-that-2017-04-10-5881421
  3. Doshi, J.A., Hodgkins, P., Kahle, J., Sikirica, V., Cangelosi, M.J., Setyawan, J., Erder, M.H., Neumann, P.J. (2012). Economic Impact of Childhood and Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in the United States. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 51(10). October 2012
  4. https://www.consultant360.com/exclusives/autism-costs-us-262-billion-year
  5. https://hbr.org/2021/12/autism-doesnt-hold-people-back-at-work-discrimination-does

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