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Nine in Ten British Office Workers Call Themselves ‘Neurodiverse’

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Neurodiversity, encompassing conditions such as Autism, ADHD, Aspergers, Dyslexia, and Tourettes, affects a significant portion of the population, with estimates suggesting up to 15% of the population is neurodivergent.

In the realm of employment, understanding the unique needs and experiences of neurodivergent employees is vital. While some conditions may qualify as disabilities under the Equality Act 2010, not all individuals classify themselves as such. UK office workers reveal their opinions in latest research by instantprint.

Diagnosis Within Reach? Only For Men

The survey revealed that over 90% of respondents identified as being diagnosed with a neurodiverse condition. From high-spectrum autism to mild dyslexia, it seems that neurodiverse conditions can be found all across the workplace.

Only 6% answered ‘no’ to being asked if they had been diagnosed with a neurodiverse condition and 2% suggested that they are in the process of trying to get a diagnosis.

Of the 90% surveyed that have been diagnosed, a significant 70% were male, while only 30% were female. However, among those currently seeking a diagnosis, the gender distribution was notably different, with 62% being female and 38% being male. These findings further reinforce recent research indicating that women are less likely to receive a neurodiverse condition diagnosis compared to men.

Rise of TikTok Self-Diagnosis

It appears that an increasing number of individuals are turning to social media platforms for insights into their neurodiverse conditions. Notably, the hashtag #adhd has amassed over 26.2 billion views on TikTok alone, indicating the prevalence of discussions and content related to this topic.

Among the respondents who confirmed having a neurodiverse diagnosis, 16% fell into the 18-24 age group, 56% were aged 25-34, 22% were aged 35-44, and 6% were aged 45 and above. This suggests that recent advancements in understanding and awareness, largely facilitated through social media platforms, have played a significant role in younger individuals seeking and obtaining diagnoses.

In contrast, among individuals aged 45 and above, 54% are currently in the process of seeking a diagnosis in adulthood.  This signifies that a significant portion of the older age group is seeking diagnosis later in life, either due to not receiving proper diagnoses earlier or facing challenges in obtaining diagnoses amid the growing demand among younger individuals.

These findings prompt us to reflect on the evolving landscape of neurodiversity discussions, particularly on social media platforms, and the impact they have on diagnosis-seeking behaviour across different age groups. It brings to light the question of whether this increased visibility is breaking the silence and stigma surrounding neurodiverse conditions or creating additional barriers for those seeking diagnoses in later stages of life.

Can You Break the Silence With Your Employer?

For those that answered ‘yes’ I have been diagnosed with a neurodiverse condition, the survey quizzed respondents on whether they feel comfortable talking to their employer and or colleagues about their condition.

• No, I don’t feel comfortable talking about my condition – 39%
• Yes I feel comfortable talking about my condition – 25%
• I feel comfortable talking to my colleagues but not my employer – 22%
• I feel comfortable talking to my employer but not my colleagues – 9%

A significant proportion, approximately 39%, almost 2 in every 5, of diagnosed respondents indicated a lack of comfort when discussing their neurodiverse condition with colleagues or their employer. It seems that even in 2023, neurodiversity remains a sensitive and somewhat taboo subject within the workplace. Whether that’s through personal choice, masking (when someone with a neurodiverse condition presents in a way that makes them seem like they are not living with the condition)  or apprehension regarding potential judgement or discrimination, employees are hesitant to openly share about their experiences.

A quarter of respondents expressed a sense of comfort when discussing their neurodiverse condition, potentially motivated by a desire to challenge stigmas, serve as advocates, and inspire their colleagues within the workplace.

A shocking 22% of participants revealed that they feel at ease discussing their neurodiverse condition with colleagues and close work friends, yet they experience discomfort when broaching the topic with their employer. This raises questions about their perception of inadequate support or potential discrimination within the workplace. Conversely, a mere 9% expressed comfort in conversing with their employers while withholding such discussions from their colleagues, possibly due to concerns about being labelled as receiving preferential treatment.

1 in 5 Neurodiverse Employees Unable To Concentrate At Work

The survey quizzed neurodivergent respondents to provide insights into the positive and negative effects of their condition within the workplace.

Top 10 Ways Neurodiverse Employees Are Affected At Work

  1. Unable to concentrate – 20%
  2. Unable to sit still or feel comfortable – 20%
  3. Ability to finish tasks and or meet deadlines – 18%
  4. Hyper-focused on a task or work – 15%
  5. Super creativity and out-of-the-box thinking – 15%
  6. Unable to think creatively – 13%
  7. Struggle with reading and writing -12%
  8. Good at problem-solving – 12%
  9. Difficulty in showcasing empathy – 10%
  10. Struggle with public speaking – 9%

Taking the top spot, 20% of respondents disclosed their struggle with maintaining focus and concentration at work. Often a common factor for neurotypicals, as well as neurodivergent individuals, excessive distractions or a lack of interest in assigned tasks, can significantly impede individuals from effectively completing their responsibilities.

Next up was being able to sit still and feel comfortable. Battered office chairs, wonky screens and room temperature are all factors that can impact comfort for neurodiverse individuals. These are all factors that can cause overstimulation, as a result, too much of some external stimulus or stimuli is enough for a person’s brain to process and integrate effectively. 

Contrary to the negative aspects, being diagnosed with a neurodiverse condition brings about positive attributes as well. A noteworthy 15% of respondents reported hyper-focusing on tasks or their work, while an additional 15% highlighted their remarkable creativity and ability to think outside the box. Furthermore, 12% emphasised their proficiency as effective problem solvers. These findings underscore the unique cognitive differences inherent in neurodivergent individuals, which facilitate distinct perspectives and approaches to the world, often leading to artistic pursuits and creative endeavours.

Employers To Only Support Neurodiverse Employees To An Extent

instantprint surveyed both neurotypical and neurodivergent employees to gather their perspectives on whether employers should prioritise supporting neurodiversity in the workplace.

The responses were evenly divided, with 48% indicating that employers should indeed support neurodiversity in the workplace. Notably, among those who answered affirmatively, 92% had previously disclosed being diagnosed with a neurodiverse condition.

However, 50% said yes employers should support neurodiversity, but only to a certain extent.  It appears that while these employees acknowledge the need for additional tools and accommodations to facilitate job performance, they may be less receptive to other employees receiving extended deadlines, extra breaks and being allowed to work from home. If they can’t have it, it seems no one can.

A mere 2% of participants expressed the belief that employers should not provide support for individuals with neurodiversity. Notably, 78% of these respondents identified as neurotypical, indicating that they have never been diagnosed with a neurodiverse condition. This finding aligns with expectations, as those without personal experiences of neurodiversity may have differing perspectives on the extent of employer support necessary.

UK Workers Demand More Support From Employers

The survey also asked respondents whether they think their employer currently supports neurodiversity in their workplace.

• Yes, my employer supports neurodiversity but is too accommodating – 29% 
• Yes, my employer supports neurodiversity but could do more – 28%
• Yes, my employer supports neurodiversity completely – 24%
• No, my employer does not seem to support neurodiversity – 7%
• I’m not sure – 7%
• No, my employer makes it harder for those with neurodiversity – 4%
• Other – 1%

Surprisingly, 29% of respondents revealed that their employers exhibit support for neurodiversity but are perceived as overly accommodating. Additionally, 4% expressed that their employers actually make work more challenging for individuals with neurodiverse conditions.90% of those who reported experiencing increased work difficulties were individuals diagnosed with a neurodiverse condition. These findings suggest that despite the progress made in acknowledging neurodiversity, obtaining sufficient support in the workplace remains a persistent challenge in the current era.

In terms of industry breakdown, among those who indicated that their employers make it harder for individuals with a neurodiverse condition, 24% belonged to the Business and Information sector, while 21% were associated with the Creative, Arts, and Design field. These findings suggest that individuals working in information-intensive roles or facing tight campaign deadlines may encounter challenges in receiving adequate support from their employers.

One respondent even shared under ‘other’; that “I am my own employer now due to not being able to cope in companies anymore”.

A whopping 28% also shared that their employer does somewhat support neurodiversity but could definitely do more.

A notable 24% of respondents expressed satisfaction with their employers’ complete support for neurodiversity. Industries that stand out for their commitment to supporting neurodiversity are Education, Leisure, and Marketing, Advertising, and PR. The caring nature intrinsic to the education sector and the creative outlets found in marketing appear to contribute to a higher likelihood of employee support in these fields.

How Are Employers Championing Inclusion?

While there may be differing opinions on neurodiversity support in the workplace, it is important to acknowledge that employers are actively taking steps to provide assistance and support.  The survey asked employees what their employer currently does to support those with neurodiverse conditions.

Taking the top of the table at 24%, almost a quarter, was being given the choice to work from home. Away from distraction and somewhere comfortable and familiar, it’s probably no surprise that neurodiverse employees are allowed to work from home to help them meet deadlines and get work done. After all, the last few years have proven the true benefits of working from home post-pandemic, including neurotypicals.

18% of respondents shared that their employers permit additional breaks, recognising the importance of rest and rejuvenation for neurodiverse individuals. 

Additionally, 14% mentioned that their employers provide dedicated booths, break rooms, or pods specifically designed for recharging and relaxation. These designated spaces allow neurodiverse employees to find solace and regain focus when needed.

A noteworthy 11% of respondents indicated that their employers demonstrate support by employing positive and inclusive language. Similarly, another 11% shared that their employers prioritise clear, direct, and concise communication across all channels, facilitating better understanding. It’s clear to see that employers don’t need to shell out on expensive incentives, it’s as simple as starting with the right language and having the right conversations.

Return to Work? It’s A No From Neurodiverse Workers

Regrettably, not all employers are fully embracing inclusivity. In the survey, respondents were asked about the measures they would like to see their employers implement in order to better support neurodivergent employees.

Topping the list at 21%, employees expressed their desire for the option to work from home, while 17% sought flexible working arrangements. It appears that despite many individuals having experienced the benefits of remote work during the lockdown period, the return to the office is not favoured by neurodiverse employees.

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