The role of technology in an evolving workspace

In this Q&A session, we hear from Stuart Blair, Workplace Product Manager at Texthelp, on the role technology plays in today’s evolving workplace, particularly for those with neurodiverse conditions. He also explored this topic further in our recent webinar

Banner with photo of Stuart Blair

How has technology impacted the way we work?

If you think back 20 years, technology was just beginning to shape how we live and work. The internet was seen as a luxury at that time, and the only CRM software and diary systems we used were a rolodex and a hard backed diary.

Fast forward to the present day - technology shapes almost everything we do!

The trip to the shopping center has been replaced with hours of scrolling through Amazon. The big shop once a week, or month, is now a simple click and collect or home delivery. It’s made our lives much easier, much simpler. In the workplace, we’re experiencing the same thing.

Digital communication channels, such as email, live chat functionality and online forums, provide us with more choice in how we connect with others. In fact, it’s reduced the amount of time we physically speak to our colleagues and customers. This has been stretched even further with the current pandemic as meetings have become digital instead of face to face. 

Technology is very important to the modern workplace as it helps everyone to work more efficiently. It allows us to collaborate more, and it absolutely keeps the world more digitally connected.

How does technology help neurodivergent staff at work?

At Texthelp we believe that everyone has the right to understand and be understood - that is the exact purpose of assistive technology.

Assistive technology could be as simple as having screen masking technology enable someone with a visual impairment to read the documents on their computer screen.

Or, it could include text-to-speech technology, empowering someone with dyslexia to consume content much easier. Being able to have their emails read aloud to them saves them time, allowing them to be more productive in their working day.

Technology should always enable or empower an individual.

With so much choice, how do we know which technology is most effective for our staff?

It is important to remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to your employees. Everyone will have individual needs, and preferences, that you will have to cater for. 

I would recommend looking at products that offer a range of features and benefits, and products that are customisable to the user. For some of your employees a full range of assistive features will be essential, but for the majority of your employees, they may find a certain selection of features beneficial.

I would also recommend testing and trialing any technology that you are considering. Create an internal steering group that includes key stakeholders and end users to get real feedback from your workforce. 

What technological trends will define the next decade for people with neurodifferences?

Covid - 19 has changed the future of the traditional office workplace. We have already seen, and will continue to see, a large switch to working from home. We’ll also begin to see a hybrid approach to working. In fact, research has shown that 61% of managers would like to practice blended working in the future. That means the virtual workspace is here to stay.

We have already seen major tech companies such as Microsoft and Google invest heavily in ensuring that their online meeting rooms are fully accessible and come with automated captioning. It’s great to see that shift, where technology is becoming inclusive by design. It’s no longer a case of there being specific trends for people with neurodivergences and disabilities. The case for accessibility is being realized more and more. 

We’re hopeful that as technology advances with 5G and virtual reality we’ll see accessibility at the core of design processes.

What can organizations do now to future proof their business for the future of technology?

The most important thing is to educate themselves on what areas of their organization would benefit from technology, and what technology is available to them.

It can be tough to change the culture of an organization to be more open to technology and difficult to challenge a legacy way of doing things. To really affect change it has to be a top down approach. 

Alongside establishing a technology-centric approach, organizations should create and implement strong processes as to how they evaluate technology. This will help them to more easily decide on future technology, and whether it would benefit their organization and employees.

What initiatives or technologies has your business implemented, and have you seen any direct successes as a result?

At Texthelp, we use Google Workspace across the business. Whilst I wasn’t part of the Texthelp team for the transition to using Google Workspace, I do know that across my career, it’s really changed my working processes for the better. 

The ability to collaborate on the same document with colleagues in real time has made our entire workforce more productive. The fact that, as an organization, we were also already fully utilizing Google meet and hangouts, helped us to make the transition to working from home easier and more streamlined throughout the ongoing pandemic.

In the space of supporting neurodiversity at work, what are the next steps for your business?

At Texthelp we are on the final stages of our journey with the Disability Confident Scheme, a scheme designed to help organizations better recruit, retain and support employees with disabilities. 

We want to help create a world where difference, language or disability are no longer barriers, and it’s important for us to practice what we preach. 

This involves seeking to employ more individuals with neurodivergent backgrounds to further benefit our teams, and firming up our partnerships with other great organizations who are proactive in this space.

We are also working hard to be outspoken and communicate the diverse and inclusive culture of our organization to our staff. It’s important that they know that we’re here to listen, and what support is available to them.

Hear more from Stuart in our recorded webinar on supporting neurodiversity in an evolving workspace. You’ll also hear from Aidan Healy, CEO at Lexxic, and Taljinder, an inclusive technology user with dyslexia.