Imagine going to work and feeling like you were constantly playing a game of chess with yourself – trying to guess every move, second, change and decision you make. For neurodivergent people, this is reality. We often have to navigate an environment that isn’t designed for us, making it difficult to do our jobs effectively. That’s why neurodivergent people need to know their rights regarding workplace accommodations.
Knowing which accommodations to ask for at work can be challenging, whether newly diagnosed or not. After all, we’ve spent our whole lives without them – so how do we even know what is possible? If only we were given a magical Handbook for the Recently Diagnosed that made this all so obvious.
Here’s what we’ve learned through trial and error and talking to our neurokin so far.
Ask for a flexible work schedule: Neurodivergent people often have a different sense of time and can be more productive outside the traditional 9-5 workday. If this is the case for you, ask your employer for a flex schedule that suits you. Such as starting earlier, working from home at least one day per week, or working odd hours to accommodate your energy levels and needs.
Working from home can be a massive game-changer for many neurodivergent workers. You may be more productive and focused when working remotely, as you don’t have to start your day overstimulated from commuting, worry about noisy coworkers or an office environment that doesn’t work for you.
Some reasonable adjustments in the office may be:
- A quieter, permanent workstation
- A flexible lunch break
- Regular breaks to re-energise and focus
- A sensory-friendly dress code
- Eye protection from screens and lights
- A calm space to decompress
- A standing desk
- Noise cancelling headphones
- Listening to music
- An ergonomic chair and a rocking footrest
Communication with your team: As a neurodivergent person in the workplace, communication is critical. We often need colleagues to be crystal clear with us, with specific instructions that leave no room for error. Ask to be briefed on meeting agendas so you can adequately prepare yourself and be given reasonable notice for upcoming changes. This can also be supported through regular meetings with your manager, where you can discuss any concerns or issues affecting your work performance.
Take mental health days: Struggling at work is shared among neurodivergent employees, but that doesn’t mean we should suffer in silence. Instead, taking occasional mental health days can help us recharge so we can come back feeling refreshed and motivated.
Some digital accessibility aids may include:
Speech-to-text transcription applications: Otter.ai takes care of transcription for you, so you can focus on the conversation without worrying about missing key points — perfect for meetings!
Dictation software: We recommend Dragon speech recognition software. Writing can be a daunting task, especially if you’re stuck staring at an empty page, but if you’re a verbal processor, dictation can help get your ideas on the screen! All you need is a decent headset or microphone, and you’re away. You talk, Dragon writes, and you can edit as you go along.
Project planning: We’ve had great success with Mindview. It’s brilliant if you’re having trouble wading through all of your ideas. Mind mapping can help you corral them so you’re left with visual, centralised concepts that are easy for yourself and others to understand.
Project management: Tools such as Trello can help you manage your tasks and workflow, allowing you to stay organised and on track. Trello can simplify much of the stress and confusion around multi-step projects, from managing your daily schedule to analysing your progress.
Remember to take care of yourself. As a neurodivergent person in the workplace, managing your energy levels can be incredibly taxing, especially when you have several competing priorities vying for your attention. However, with suitable accommodations, you can thrive at work – no matter your challenges. You deserve support.
Please let us know if we’ve missed anything! We’d love to hear from you.