Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace
March 12, 2024 Sue Riordan
Supporting neurodiversity in the workplace

If you’re in the benefits industry, neurodiversity is a word you might start to hear more about. In particular, how is neurodiversity impacting the workplace? Several top companies have begun to ask that question. Many employers have recognized a need to design benefits that can properly support neurodivergent employees. Plus, it’s equally important to have the right benefits in place to assist parents and caregivers with neurodivergent children or dependents. In addition, many companies are even beginning to review recruiting practices to be able to attract more neurodiverse talent to create a more inclusive workplace.

What is neurodiversity?

So, then—what is neurodiversity? The term is used to describe the unique ways people’s brains work. In other words, though everyone’s brains develop similarly, no two brains function the exact same way. Therefore, being neurodivergent means you may have a brain that works differently from the average or “neurotypical” person. Below are definitions of a few key phrases and their differences, including neurodiversity, neurodivergent, neurodiverse and neurotypical.

    • Neurodiversity—refers to the natural variations in how the brain processes and interprets information. It describes the idea there is no one “right” way of experiencing and interacting with the world. Also, cognitive differences shouldn’t be viewed as deficient, but embraced as an inherent part of human diversity.
    • Neurodivergent—used to describe an individual with cognitive differences.
    • Neurodiverse—a group of people who are neurodivergent.
    • Neurotypical—refers to individuals with brains that function in ways more typical of their peers or those of a certain age group.
Common neurodivergent conditions

Being neurodivergent isn’t a medical condition on its own. Instead, it’s used to describe someone whose brain works differently, affecting how they think or act. It’s also not that rare. Close to 33 percent of the population is believed to be neurodivergent. Conditions or disorders that fall into this category usually fall into one of three buckets—learning, mental health or developmental. Though many qualify as this, common ones include:

    • Anxiety disorders
    • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
    • Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)
    • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Depression
    • Down syndrome
    • Dyslexia
    • Dyspraxia
    • Dyscalculia
    • Epilepsy
    • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • Tourette syndrome
Strengths and challenges of being neurodivergent

Being neurodivergent brings along its fair share of challenges. And on the job, neurodivergent individuals may experience difficulties with communicating, learning, staying on task and things such as managing or controlling their emotions.

But  it often carries untapped strengths and talents as well. Though not talked about as often, differences in the way the brain works can make neurodivergent individuals especially good at certain tasks. For instance, neurodivergent individuals may have strong abilities when it comes to analyzing, problem solving and tackling complex mathematical calculations. Plus, they often bring heightened skills such as enhanced memory, attention to detail, empathy, heightened creativity and much more.

Can offering benefits to support neurodiversity be a competitive advantage?

A growing number of corporations believe the answer is yes. And that includes more than 25 percent of Fortune 100 companies. By offering the right mix of benefits, employers can:

    • Attract from a pool of talent that’s sometimes overlooked.
    • Create a more inclusive environment.
    • Boost productivity among existing employees.
    • Reduce stress levels.
    • Allow employees to work in ways best suited for them.
    • Improve employee engagement and satisfaction.
What are some forms of neurodiversity benefits?

Supporting neurodiversity in the workplace can mean offering direct support for workers or aiding caregivers. And they should be designed to address the needs that can fall through the cracks of typical health benefits or employee assistance programs. For instance, behavioral health benefits offering one-on-one consults have shown to be helpful. In addition, regular phone check-ins and online learning or educational tools can also offer needed support.

Human resource  managers and employers alike can help their workforce by thinking out of the box when it comes to being sensitive to neurodiverse needs.

And employees welcome this added support. Studies show over 52 percent of employees who regularly tap into neurodiversity benefits to help their children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia or other conditions report they’re freed up to spend more time on work. In addition, 73 percent say assistance increases their focus on the job. Productivity gains like these can allow teams to be anywhere from 20 to 30 percent more productive.

Plus, adding benefits to support neurodiversity can also improve morale, give employees a sense of belonging, promote loyalty and help sustain much higher retention rates.

If you’d like information on how Meritain Health® may be able to help, contact us today.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice.