Designing neurodiverse workplaces involves a number of considerations to create an inclusive and accommodating environment for individuals with different neurological conditions.
Neurodiversity refers to the diversity of human brain function and neurological differences. It includes a wide range of conditions that affect the brain and nervous systems, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and Tourette syndrome, as well as conditions that may be less well-known, such as synesthesia or hyperlexia. Neurodiversity is not a medical condition but a way of recognizing and valuing the unique strengths and challenges associated with different ways of thinking and learning.
Not only does a workspace designed for neurodiversity support those with a range of conditions, but it also allows all employees to adjust their conditions to meet their particular needs and preferences. By designing for neurodiversity, employers can attract and retain talent, build stronger teams, and gain a competitive edge.
Supporting neurodiversity in the workplace means creating an inclusive work environment that accommodates all individuals’ needs, regardless of their cognitive differences. This can involve gathering employee feedback about their preferences and needs, and using universal design principles to offer a range of options and accommodations.
Some best practices for the neurodiverse workplace include ensuring that the space is well-lit, free of distractions, and organized in a way that is intuitive to the individual. It can also involve incorporating visual aids, sensory integration tools, and other assistive technologies to help individuals with neurodiversity better navigate and interact with their surroundings. Overall, the goal of designing spaces for neurodiverse individuals is to create environments that are accessible, supportive, and inclusive.
Of the many factors that can make an office space productive, here are a few to consider when designing neurodiverse workplaces:
Designing flexible and adaptable spaces can help accommodate the needs of individuals with different neurological conditions. For example, providing areas that can be used for quiet work or for socializing can be helpful for people with conditions such as autism who may need more control over their environment. Adequate space is also required. An office space that is not too crowded or cluttered can help employees feel less stressed and more able to focus on their work. Furniture that is flexible and easy to move is also essential.
Ensuring that spaces are physically accessible for people with different neurological conditions is important. This can include providing ramps or elevators for individuals who use wheelchairs or ensuring that doors and hallways are wide enough to accommodate assistive devices.
Different neurological conditions can be associated with different sensitivities to sensory input, such as color, light, sound, and temperature. Designing spaces with these sensitivities in mind can help improve the mood and productivity of employees. A well-lit and well-ventilated office space can enhance the mood and productivity of employees. Comfortable furniture can reduce physical discomfort and improve focus and productivity. An office space free from excessive noise and other distractions can help employees stay focused and productive.
Equipping a range of communication options, such as visual aids or speech-to-text software, can help support individuals with different neurological conditions who may have difficulty with verbal communication. Quiet spaces are helpful for those relying on speech recognition software.
Providing resources and support for the neurodiverse is vital in creating an inclusive and supportive workplace. This can include arranging accommodations for specific needs, offering training for co-workers, and issuing resources for employees to learn about different neurological conditions.
Overall, the key to a productive workspace is creating an environment that is comfortable, conducive to work, and free from distractions.
Nanda, U., Park , G., Adams, L., Essary, J., & Hoelting, M. (2020). Sensory Wellbeing for Adolescents with Developmental Disorders: Creating (and testing) a Sensory Wellbeing Hub with a Sensthetic approach. American Society of Interior Designers. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from https://www.asid.org/resources/resources/view/resource-center/303
Gain, F. (2022, April 21). Workplace neurodiversity: Designing for difference. M Moser Associates. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from https://www.mmoser.com/ideas/workplace-neurodiversity-designing-for-difference/
Paron-Wildes, A. J. (2014). Interior Design for autism from adulthood to Geriatrics. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.