How to make sure the future of blended working is bright for neurodivergent employees
The Covid-19 pandemic has shifted everyone’s focus on what the future of the workplace will look like. With social distancing measures in place, and restrictions on the number of people allowed in areas at one time, the future of modern workplaces could be a focus on blended working.
What is blended working?
Blended working is where employees work both onsite (in the office) and off-site (at home). It also includes using online training. A blended workforce includes employees on different contracts, such as permanent, part-time, contractors, freelancers, and temporary workers. It has been argued that a blended workplace promotes diversity and can bring about positive outcomes, such as: increased productivity, higher work satisfaction, collaboration, and can reduce absenteeism. Employers need to ensure that the culture in the workplace is inclusive and every employee should feel that they are returning to a supportive and caring environment. Blending working brings many positives to the future of workplaces, however, neurodivergent individuals may require support in adjusting to a blended working lifestyle.
Impact of blended working on neurodiversity
After successive lockdowns, many neurodivergent workers have already had to adjust to working from home, and indeed some may have already been in the process of returning back to the office. The impact in change of routine may pose some challenges. And, as employers prepare for a future of blended working, what can they do to ensure neurodivergent individuals achieve a work-life blend?
The constant change in working from home and then traveling to the office during the week could be difficult for some people with a neurodivergent condition, such as those with ASC (Autism Spectrum Condition). It can lead to feelings of stress or anxiety if a structure is not put into place. Some ASC individuals even report having sleepless nights when they think about their travel to work.
Preparation is key. Speaking to employers and setting up a fixed schedule can help manage feelings of anxiety. Looking ahead and planning travel time to the office can help to feel prepared. Keeping basic structures in place, such as waking up at the same time everyday and having a set time for going to bed, may also ease feelings of overwhelm.
Socially distanced office spaces
Organizations are restructuring workplaces post-lockdown. From one-way systems and socially-distanced workstations to new rules on shared kitchen usage. This means that new rules need to be learned and understood. ASC individuals may find this sudden change difficult to understand and manage, so would benefit from advance notice. Neurodivergent individuals may also find other challenges when entering socially-distanced office spaces, such as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, or adjusting to fewer people being in the office.
PPE in the workplace
PPE equipment such as masks and gloves have been widely introduced to the workplace. Neurodivergent individuals can have sensitivity issues, such as being over-sensitive to sound and touch. Some may find wearing a mask to be uncomfortable, and others may find it difficult to communicate as they may not be able to hear clearly, or see the mouth moving if they rely on lip reading. Reasonable adjustments should be considered in these situations, such as providing those who are unable to wear a mask with a pass to help avoid any misunderstandings in following office rules. Adaptive PPE equipment could also be considered, such as inserting mask brackets into face masks, to provide more room for breathing, and reducing the mask from touching the face.
Social etiquette in the workplace
Social interaction may be limited, with some workers wanting to take extra care to maintain social distancing levels. Some neurodivergent individuals, such as those with ADHD and dyslexia, may find this to be socially isolating. Setting up team meetings and events can help to drive engagement. Some neurodivergent staff may be worried and apprehensive about returning to the workplace. Providing a safe environment can help ensure that everyone is comfortable with the different levels of social distancing. Arranging return to work conversations with line managers can help to identify work priorities and allow for an open dialog to raise any concerns which would help neurodivergent staff to plan and prepare for a work-life blend.
Checklists and to-do lists are helpful for those with a neurodivergent condition, as they can assist with time management and act as a reminder of tasks and appointments. Keeping organized professionally and personally can help to feel prepared, such as preparing lunches the night before, laying out work clothes, looking ahead to see what important deadlines and meetings are approaching and packing a bag the night before with the work laptop, phone and safety equipment such as hand sanitisers, gloves and masks.
Many employees during lockdown have been unable to do their substantive role and some may need to undergo workplace training to adjust to completing tasks in a post lockdown environment. Neurodivergent individuals may struggle to read under timed conditions, however the use of assistive technology, such as Read&Write from Texthelp, which can be used on many devices, could support individuals to understand written text effectively and support them when reading training documents at home or at work.
Flexible working will also need to account for how training and learning is delivered in the future, and some neurodivergent individuals would find it beneficial to know what support can be put in place for them, and what further resources they can access to help achieve a work-life blend.
Remember, achieving a work-life blend is to also allow time to switch off and relax when not at work, especially when working from home.
Working in partnership with specialists in neurodiversity in the workplace, such as Lexxic, can help organizations and neurodivergent individuals to access resources, such as e-Learning modules on strategy skills or awareness raising modules on neurodiversity, which can be accessed on the go and on most devices. The future of a work-life blend looks bright and having the adjustments and support in place can ensure that this is a smooth transition for neurodivergent individuals.
Hear more from Lexxic in our video series partnership. Across three short videos, we explore neurodivergent conditions in detail, and offer advice on what organizations can do to support neurodivergent employees.
Lexxic are leaders in empowering neurodiversity in the workplace. A specialist psychological consultancy, they believe all minds belong, so it is their mission to inspire a working world that supports and values the talents of neurodiverse minds, empowering individuals to be their best selves at work.