15 . 08 . 23
We’re all different, and that’s an amazing thing. A creative agency without the variety of different personalities would be a very uncreative agency indeed, and so, having recently completed our agency-wide DEI survey, we were pleased – if not entirely surprised – to find that Digital Radish is a very neurodiverse place to work. In all, around 40% of us are neurodiverse in some way.
What is neurodivergence?
Neurodivergence refers to a wide range of neurological conditions, including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, which affect how the brain processes information and experiences the world. Both ADHD and autism are spectrum disorders, which means that their symptoms and severity can vary greatly from person to person.
And what can a workplace be like for someone who is neurodivergent?
Again, this varies greatly. But individuals who are neurodivergent are at risk of facing a significant amount of stigma and discrimination in society. This can manifest in many ways, from workplace discrimination to a lack of understanding and support in educational settings.
To try and gain a better understanding, we spoke to Tess, our mental health first aider and the leader of our DEI committee. Tess also happens to be neurodivergent herself and had this to say on the matter:
“For me personally, the best way I know to describe the neurodivergent brain is one that processes information from the bottom up, rather than top down. This means I am more likely to try and understand a situation explicitly, rather than assuming or inferring what’s happening or what I should do based on context alone.”
“As a woman who was diagnosed with ADHD and autistic traits in adulthood, it took me a long time to unlearn and unpick the masking techniques I had picked up throughout my life. From a young age, I learned that the way I understood the world and how I liked to play was different from those around me. In an effort to fit in, I hid the parts of myself that confused or annoyed my family and peers.”
“As an adult, I have come to see my differences as strengths in many ways. For example, I’ll happily format documents and pour over spreadsheets with genuine enjoyment. Contrary to certain social misconceptions, however, I also love people and care deeply about those around me.”
Unlearning negative stereotypes is one of the best things we can do to foster understanding for any marginalised group. In this spirit, Tess has created a small list of things everyone should consider when working with neurodivergent people. The more we thought about these tips, the more we realised they’re actually great tips for working with anyone at all. You never fully know the minds of your colleagues, or what they might be going through. By following these rules, you’ll be treating everyone with the respect and understanding they deserve.
So, here they are:
Be open: when working with individuals who have autism or ADHD, it’s important to assume best intentions wherever possible. If someone asks for an accommodation or clarification, it’s important to listen and take it seriously.
Be curious: don’t be afraid to ask people what they need or how you can better help them in a non-judgemental manner.
Be adaptable: it’s also important to be agile and adaptable in your approach. It’s not always easy to understand how a person with autism or ADHD may process information differently, so be open to changing your approach or manner of explaining things.
Remember that everyone is unique and has their own strengths and challenges. Be patient, respectful and understanding, and you’ll be able to build a more effective and inclusive environment.