The workplace environment can either be a source of stress or a source of motivation for neurodivergent employees. When a workplace is a source of stress, it can lead to absenteeism, loss of productivity, altercation, and high staff turnover. When a workplace is a source of motivation, it can lead to increased productivity, creativity, and engagement. The best way to create an inclusive and motivating workplace for neurodivergent employees is to make reasonable adjustments.
What are reasonable adjustments?
Reasonable adjustments refer to any changes or accommodations made in the workplace to help neurodivergent employees better navigate and manage their unique needs. These adjustments can range from small tweaks, such as rearranging office furniture, to larger changes, such as restructuring the entire workflow process or offering flexible work hours to accommodate social anxiety and avoidance. More examples of reasonable adjustment include;
- Adjusting the way that meetings are conducted
- Creating clear and consistent expectations for performance
- Providing access to technology that helps employees stay organised.
- Allowing for flexible work hours or remote work arrangements.
- Offering accommodations such as quiet rooms or sensory breaks .
- Including employee feedback and input in decision-making processes.
While reasonable adjustments are ultimately designed to help neurodivergent employees succeed at work and feel supported by their colleagues, each situation is unique and may require a slightly different approach.
Again it’s worth noting that employers don’t have to entirely change how their business is run to make reasonable adjustments for neurodivergent employees. Rather, it’s about making small changes and tweaks to accommodate individual employees’ unique needs.
What does ‘reasonable’ actually mean?
What is classed as reasonable completely depends on each individual situation. The employer has to decide whether the adjustment will:
- will remove or reduce the disadvantage the individual is facing. This involves working with the individual to understand their needs, and not make expectations.
- is practical to make
- is affordable
- Could harm the health or safety of others
When do you have to make reasonable adjustments?
The Equality Act of 2010 says that employers must make reasonable adjustments for all employees and workers, self-employed people and job applicants applying for their roles.
Employers and managers must make reasonable adjustments when:
- They know, or could reasonably be expected to know that someone is neurodivergent
- A neurodivergent job applicant asks for adjustments
- A neurodivergent employee is experiencing challenges with their job
Who pays for reasonable adjustments?
An employer is responsible for paying for reasonable adjustments. The vast majority of reasonable adjustments are simple and affordable. However, its the employers decision about whether an adjustment is deemed reasonable or not.
Examples of reasonable adjustments
Offering Flexible Work Arrangements
- Allow employees to work remotely or from home as needed, particularly if they struggle with social anxiety and avoidance.
- Provide flexible start and end times to help accommodate shifting energy levels throughout the day.
- Offer flexible leave options such as extra paid time off or modified sick days that can be taken when it’s most convenient for workers.
- Evenly distributed breaks to help employees manage their focus and concentration.
Modifying the Physical Work Environment
- Encourage employees to personalise their workspace to feel more comfortable and welcoming.
- Provide quiet break areas where employees can take a time out or engage in sensory activities as needed.
- Removing unnecessary visual or auditory distractions from the workplace, such as loud printers or crowded cubicles.
- Adjusting lighting levels in common areas to create a more comfortable environment for employees with sensory sensitivities.
Including Employees in Decision Making Processes
- Seek out employee feedback and input when making changes to the workplace or developing new policies and procedures.
- Encourage employees to voice concerns or share their ideas about better supporting neurodivergent workers in the workplace.
- Invite employees with first-hand experience of neurodiversity to participate in workplace training, events, and workshops to educate colleagues about these issues.
Providing Supportive Equipment
- Offering access to counselling services, mental health resources.
- Providing access to assistive technology, such as screen readers or note-taking.
- Provide emails and documents in alternative formats, such as audio or large-print versions.
- Designing modified training materials and workplace policies that are more accessible to neurodivergent employees.
- Ensuring that workplace accommodations and reasonable adjustments are consistently applied for all employees, regardless of their neurodivergent status.
Overall, the goal of implementing reasonable adjustments for neurodivergent employees is to create supportive and inclusive work environments that enable them to succeed on their terms. By being proactive and flexible in their approach, managers can help foster a culture of acceptance & collaboration across all levels of the organisation.
What do I do if my employee asks for reasonable adjustments?
You should take these simple steps if you have a neurodivergent employee that asks for reasonable adjustments to implement them.
Arrange a time to chat in a confidential space
Within that time, you want to ask questions to allow your neurodivergent employee time to talk and also understand their support needs. You can use Enna’s ‘Reasonable Adjustments Conversation’ template to guide you.
You could them about:
- Their neurodiversity, and how it might impact them at work
- How their neurodiversity creates strengths, but also presents challenges at work
- What would help to alleviate those challenges
- What adjustments you could put in place to help
You want to make sure you are:
- Taking the lead from your neurodivergent employee
- Facilitating the conversation positively by asking questions and listening to their responses
- Not make any assumptions
- Considering their individual situation and experiences
Agree on reasonable adjustments
Remember, it is down to the employer to agree what is reasonable. If something is going to make the business go bankrupt or take years to implement, it may not be reasonable!
You should work with your employee to agree on them, and put them in place. Its important to note them down and agree a time to review them, we usually recommend a month later. You can use Enna’s ‘Reasonable Adjustments Passport’ to help.
Review them regularly
As their job progresses, your employee might start to gain new strengths or face new challenges. Its important to review these regularly to ensure whatever you’re putting in place is effective and is relevant.
Get help and support
The team at Enna are always on hand to support employers and offer advice if needed, so get in touch if you have a question.