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Insights 8 things you should know about neurodiversity in the workplace

I'm Chloe, a degree apprentice with the transportation team. I work on projects that make journeys safer and faster. While pursuing my degree, I get hands-on experience in design and project management, learning directly from some of our industry's leading professionals. In honour of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, I wrote this blog for #InsideAtkinsRéalis. It's for people just discovering their neurodiversity and for neurotypical people who want to know more. Here are 8 Things You Should Know About Neurodiversity in the Workplace:

1. The right workplace support matters

My dyslexia diagnosis came relatively late in life, after joining AtkinsRéalis. While waiting for it, my manager was very supportive, putting reasonable adjustments in place to improve my experience at work. Generally, the organization has put in any accommodations I need. These include software to help me use my laptop and support receiving information in a way that works best for me. For example, my colleagues are happy to explain a task to me more than once—they understand it will allow me to perform at my best.

Photo of Chloe smiling towards the camera

2. A safe space to share is essential

We have a neurodiversity network for company employees that raises awareness, creates a community, and improves the experience of neurodiverse/neurodivergent people. The group is open to everyone, regardless of your role and whether you're neurodivergent, undergoing diagnosis or an ally. The neurodiversity network has allowed me to share my experiences with allies and other neurodivergent people.

3. Achieving inclusive cultures isn't easy

A neuro-inclusive culture can be hard to achieve, as different branches of neurodiversity have different needs. Even those with the same diagnosis can have varying needs. However, through open and honest communication that raises awareness of the challenges people face, we can achieve a neuro-inclusive culture without disadvantaging anyone, including 'neurotypical' people.

4. Inclusivity needs continuous improvement

However, there is always room to improve. Some colleagues still need to learn about neurodiversity and how it can affect us. They may need an updated understanding of neurodiversity or see only its positive aspects, among other misconceptions. Despite this, I've seen continuous improvement across the organization and have never felt excluded or put down by colleagues because I am neurodivergent.

"In my day-to-day work, it is hard to tell that I am neurodivergent because my accommodations work well for me. This alone shows that I am not othered for my neurodiversity and am treated as any other person would be."
—Chloe, Degree Apprentice, Transportation

5. Neurodivergent sensory needs vary

Some colleagues may struggle with bright lights, loud noises, large crowds, and other stimuli. Others may thrive in this environment! A way to support everyone in this situation is to provide a space that suits this variety of needs. Many significant events now have quiet spaces away from the main activity area and may have adjustable lighting, sensory objects, and more. The more adaptable venues are to personal preference, the better.

Photo of Chloe on a skateboard

6. Traits like hyperfocus can be double-edged swords

I sometimes experience a period of hyperfocus. I can't choose when this happens, and it can have drawbacks, such as losing the concept of time. However, having an episode of hyperfocus when I have a tight deadline has advantages. It means I can continuously work, shutting out all distractions and putting all my energy into the task!

7. Having your needs met isn't optional

It's important to listen to your needs and access accommodations when needed, no matter the circumstance. Sometimes, the solution may take time, which can be uncomfortable and concerning. If this occurs, explain the situation and what you need to a trusted colleague who can help advocate for you.

8. Events need some forethought

Events can be tricky, but it's always better if you have time to prepare beforehand. Find out about the accommodations that are already in place. Is there a space you can move to if needed? If you like to know what's happening, can you get the agenda for the day? If you suffer from meltdowns or other significant challenges, is there someone who will know how to support you? Having these safeguards in place before you arrive can help you manage expectations and remove anxiety about the event.

Discover more about Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion inside AtkinsRéalis.