How to Support Neurodivergent Employees

It’s estimated that around 15% of the UK population is neurodivergent in some way. Neurodivergence refers to a range of neurological differences that affect how the brain processes and views information.

These differences result in untypical thinking styles. They include autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia and others. This difference in brain processing comes with both challenges and strengths. Accommodating these is the first step to support neurodivergent employees and foster a truly inclusive workplace—here, we look at some of the ways you can do this.

Neurodivergence and employment

One of the challenges neurodivergent people face is retaining employment. As an example, only 29% of autistic adults in the UK are in employment, according to a study carried out by the Office of National Statistics in 2021.

Why is retaining employment so hard, you may ask? It’s simple really.

Being neurodivergent in a neurotypical world can be exhausting. For some, this is due to ‘masking,’ which is where we hide our true selves in order to fit in and be accepted. There’s an expectation that neurodivergent people conform to society’s neurotypical standards. This is especially difficult and anxiety-inducing in the workplace. There’s also a lack of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and education around neurodivergence at work.

Fostering an inclusive workplace culture

Education within an organisation is a crucial way that employers can support neurodivergent employees. This can come in multiple forms, such as EDI and sensitivity training, and specific training around neurodiversity. Understanding around what neurodiversity is and what challenges neurodivergent colleagues face, as well as the many strengths they bring, is key to encouraging open discussion.

Of course, creating an inclusive and diverse workplace doesn’t mean that neurodivergent employees need to disclose their difference if they don’t want to. Some people may have personal reasons for not wishing to do so. They may be worried about experiencing unconscious bias and discrimination, for example.

support neurodivergent employees at work

Making accommodations

A reasonable accommodation is an adaptation that an employer can make to the work environment, policies or tasks that will enable an employee to perform their job effectively. It’s characterised by its fairness, effectiveness and appropriateness in addressing the challenges faced by an employee. These accommodations are essential for promoting inclusion, diversity and a supportive work environment.

When a neurodivergent employee asks for accommodations, they’re not trying to be difficult. Accommodations level the playing field and are a necessary aid to help all neurodiverse employees succeed in the workplace. They vary between people—some may need more and some may not need any at all. Different people will also need different types of accommodations, so personalising these is a great way to support a neurodivergent employee.

Understanding and defining these accommodations needs to be a joint effort. Some neurodivergent people might not know exactly what accommodations they need or what’s available to them. Having clear guidance and regular check-ins about this (via their preferred communication method) is imperative to the success and comfort of a neurodivergent employee.

So, what types of accommodations can employers consider to help support neurodivergent employees?

1. Flexible working

This has different meanings at different organisations. Be clear about what it means for yours. In addition to standard flexibilities, some neurodivergent people may need further flexibility. Many struggle with the office environment and public transport, so having to be in the office on specific days can be very challenging. In addition, having rigid working hours may not work for them.

Understandably, organisations often need to set core working hours. But flexibility around start, end and lunch times can do wonders for a neurodivergent employee’s mental health.

2. The office environment

Something I’ve personally found to make a difference is being able to choose where I sit when I’m in the office. Like many neurodivergent people, I’m easily overstimulated by things like sound, temperature and light. Being able to choose my desk has made a big difference to my comfort and productivity. You could also consider implementing a rule where if someone has headphones on, you don’t disturb them. Another accommodation could be a quiet room, where anyone can go to decompress and have some quiet time alone.


Apart from making tailored accommodations, there are also broader changes that can be made. For example, many neurodivergent people struggle with some element of communication. People with dyslexia can often take longer to digest written and spoken communication, while people with ASD need very clear, unambiguous communication.

Whenever you’re communicating, remember to consider the format. Is it the best way to get your message across? Is it clear and easily digestible?

To support neurodivergent employees, it’s important to remember that every person’s experience is unique. Some may need additional accommodations and others may not need any at all. Regardless of whether you’re a small or large organisation, education around EDI is imperative if we want things to change. And we really do want things to change.

Ready to hire with neurodivergent candidates in mind? Post a job today.

Tags: diversity, diversity and inclusion, mental health in the workplace, supporting your team, workplace wellbeing

Read more posts like this

About the author

Asmitha Maharaj

Asmitha is Senior Data Analytics Manager at CharityJob.