Celebrating our Neurodiversity in the Evolving Workplace 

Imagine if every person at your organization approached every problem with the exact same mindset. They’d all have the same ideas, never challenge each other, and cling to the status quo.

No drama. No speedbumps.

No innovation.

No breakthroughs.

All ruts and plateaus, all the time.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a hard pass on a work environment like that.

Diversity of thought, perspective, background, and experience is essential to forward progress. Ideas must be challenged and tweaked and shaped and bounced around. Everyone likes it when people agree with them, but I’d hate it if everyone simply “yesed” me all the time, even when my ideas weren’t great. What an incredible waste of time and potential.

I’m fortunate to work for a company that gets it. We actively seek out diverse perspectives because, frankly, it’s great for business. We’re also leaning in hard to a form of diversity that is often overlooked: Neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that includes conditions like ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and Autism. One in five people are neurodivergent, including me. Whether acknowledged or not, neurodiversity is likely to be present at nearly every company within every industry worldwide.

Neurodiversity is rarely discussed in corporate settings because it’s deeply stigmatized, but my colleagues and I are committed to changing that. Neurodiversity doesn’t mean a lack of ability. It simply means that neurodivergent people perceive and interact with the world differently than the neurotypical majority. When it’s embraced, neurodiversity can deliver innumerable advantages to an organization.

Current State of Neurodiversity

Successfully leaning into neurodiversity starts by understanding it. That’s why we administered an ambitious survey to gauge the current state of neurodiversity in the workplace. The Alludo Neurodiversity at Work survey outlines findings from nearly 1,000 neurodivergent individuals about their experiences at work, what they bring to the table, and the obstacles they sometimes face. The survey polled non-managers, managers, directors, VPs, and C-Level office workers, between the ages of 18-65, living in the US and the UK. The data reveals that neurodiverse workers can add exceptional value to a business through:

  • Creative, flexible, and outside-the-box thinking (52.1%)
  • Strong observational skills and attention to detail (40%)
  • Ability to stay focused for long periods of time (36.7%)
  • Excellent ability to recognize patterns (34.6%)
  • Excellent math skills (34.4%)

That all sounds great, right? And it is. The problem is that the current business landscape is still set up to foster success primarily, and sometimes exclusively, for the neurotypical majority. This alienates and stigmatizes neurodiverse talent.

According to the survey, this disconnect has resulted in more than half (51%) of neurodivergent workers thinking about quitting or having left their job because they do not feel their employer is doing enough to support their needs. When different age groups were asked if they have quit or would consider quitting, younger employees were most likely to look for jobs elsewhere—52% for those aged 18-24, compared to 28% for those 55-64.

This is not a zero sum game. Creating more inclusive, flexible spaces at work doesn’t make things harder for the neurotypical majority. It makes it easier for everyone. 

Business leaders should use this information as an alarm bell, and an opportunity to redesign outdated work processes to be more inclusive and accessible while also creating a culture of psychological safety where all their employees—neurodiverse or not—can thrive. Cultivating an environment where diverse ways of thinking can thrive is absolutely vital for continuous innovation and change.

Neurodiversity Drives Evolution of Work

This survey comes as the world reckons with a widespread, permanent shift toward remote and hybrid models for knowledge workers. There’s also a movement toward advancing beyond location flexibility, aiming for a workplace model where employees are truly free to work not only where, but when and how they want. At Alludo, we view this comprehensive sense of freedom as the future of work, and have coined the term Work3 to describe it.

Embracing Work3 means dismantling generations of notions about what work should look and feel like. Work 1.0 is the traditional, in-office, 9-5 model where people show up, tick boxes, and leave. Ushered in by the pandemic, Work 2.0 embraces digital transformation as well as a significantly higher prevalence of remote and hybrid workplaces. However, Work 2.0 largely carried the expectations of Work 1.0 into a different workplace model. Simply working remotely doesn’t mean freedom at work, as evidenced by the growing trend of high-tech monitoring devices to keep tabs on remote workers. A true, Work3-centered environment means being able to show up as you are, embracing your unique skills and differences, and working in the way that suits you best.

The Alludo survey made it clear that Neurodivergent workers clearly prefer true freedom and flexibility at work—not simply the option to work remotely, which is a standout preference, but also the ability to work in the style that suits them best.

We believe that Work3 is an important shift for all knowledge workers, not only those who are neurodivergent. In Work3, outputs matter more than inputs. Managers don’t evaluate performance based on presence, how many hours are logged, or when those hours are logged. While there are sure to be a few essential touchpoints here and there, knowledge workers should be free to complete their assigned tasks when, where, and how they want. There is no shame in 2 a.m. emails, nor is there an expectation to respond at 2 a.m. Employees may use the tools and devices that work best for them, as long as those tools are secure. There is psychological safety to take risks within established guidelines, and an acceptance to fail wisely.

This is true freedom, blended with accountability, to produce optimal results.

As the survey confirms, Work3 is the model that neurodivergent knowledge workers have been waiting for. It creates time and space for ideas, bold thinking, optimal performance, and challenging the status quo. It’s what neurodivergent knowledge workers need, but it’s truly what every knowledge workers need. Ultimately, it’s what businesses need to attract, retain, and engage great talent while breaking through ruts and generating more revenue and profits. That’s a win for everyone.

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About Author

Becca Chambers is SVP of Global Brand and Communications at Alludo. Award-winning tech brand-builder, storyteller, strategist, and advisor.