The importance of championing neurodiversity in the workplace

Diverse teams think differently – and with different perspectives, thoughts and ideas comes increased creativity and innovation. Sounds like something every business would want, right? Well, in its 2020 survey, Creative Equals found that 18% of employees in advertising, marketing and media fit under the umbrella of ‘neurodiverse’ – referring to conditions like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia, to name a few.

In fact, Universal Music’s 2020 report, titled ‘Creative Differences’, estimated that the representation of neurodiverse people across all creative industries is almost double, when compared to the general public. Is that surprising?

It shouldn’t be. After all, as the industry name suggests, creativity’s necessary – and greater creativity comes from diverse thinking.

So, at Brands2Life, we dedicated January as a month to learn more about neurodiversity in the workplace. By organising talks hosted by Michael Barton and influencer Molly’s ADHD Mayhem, we took time to help educate ourselves on neurodiversity – in all its forms – and the ways we can accommodate our neurodivergent peers. Alongside this, we undertook external training as an agency, with additional training for managers, on understanding the neurodiverse spectrum. Not to mention training on fostering an inclusive culture to help those in management positions understand how to effectively support neurodiverse talent.

This initiative was accompanied by an ongoing effort to share resources, articles, books, and podcasts of interest, as well as personal experiences – and, all combined, it’s safe to say it made a huge impact.

Firstly, because our team feel more confident supporting neurodiverse talent. Secondly, because it got us thinking about the overall importance of championing neurodiverse talent and the mutual benefits.

All of this together led us to identify four key takeaways that every company can take and adapt to recognise, celebrate, and better support neurodiversity in the workplace…

1. There’s always room to learn

People say you learn something new every day; given how fast-paced and ever-changing the field of communications is, there’s definitely truth in that.

By embracing neurodiversity – be it through talks, resources, education, or just amplifying the voices and experiences of those who are neurodivergent – you create an opportunity for your team to learn something that they might not have the opportunity to encounter otherwise.

Plus, fostering a neurodiversity-friendly culture through education can reduce stigma associated with neurodiversity and encourage everyone to be open and honest about their experiences too.

2. A more diverse workforce serves a more diverse world

The shape of the world is changing, and rapidly.

Perhaps the most recognised trait of neurodiversity across many of its manifestations, is that neurodiverse brains think differently in a fundamental way.

In creative spaces, this could be the difference between a successful campaign or a disappointing result. However, beyond that, embracing neurodiverse talent allows businesses to bring new and exciting creative solutions to client challenges, to gather alternative insights, and produce work that stands out. And, thanks to creative solutions that might not have come without a team of diverse thinkers, showcasing different ideas in campaigns could appeal to an audience that has been difficult to engage in the past.

So, being willing to diversify the creative environment is the key to allowing these ideas to emerge.

3. Benefits of adapting to welcome and nurture neurodiverse talent

Beyond a successful campaign, the simplest thing championing neurodiversity can achieve is reducing the stigma, and in turn, creating an environment where your team can thrive.

Some small, straightforward accommodations, such as assistive software or personalised adjustments (like scheduling regular movement breaks or allowing fidget toys), can make a big difference to how comfortable neurodiverse colleagues feel in a professional environment, allowing them to produce work that’s of a higher quality too.

What’s more, ensuring everyone in your team’s set up to thrive can open you up to the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce – the passion, creativity, and attention to detail, for example.

4. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution

What might benefit one person won’t necessarily benefit another.

No two people experience the world the same way, so businesses shouldn’t approach all neurodiverse individuals with the same solution. For example, while some might find an office routine stabilising and necessary, others might find it distracting and overwhelming.

Everyone has different needs, so making an assumption based on one person won’t help anyone. Instead, focusing on making it easy for those who require adjustments to communicate their individual requirements will go far further.

Whether you work in a creative or data-driven space, every company needs diverse thinkers to unlock its true potential. However, with this, you need a living, breathing culture of support and education to help everyone thrive. So, like our team, if you’re committed to celebrating different minds, these four learnings are just the start.