Breaking Down Barriers-Advancing Neurodiversity in the Workplace
  • 4 min read

Strategies for Success-Adapting Hiring Processes for Neurodiverse Candidates

Neurodivergent people can experience a wide number of barriers in the workplace because the workplace is normally suited to neurotypical people. Embracing neurodivergent people can unlock new insights and benefits for businesses. The world of work is changing – employers need to adapt to it.

Firstly, there needs to be an understanding of the barriers neurodivergent employees face. This will help understand ways to support neurodivergent employees.


It’s important to note that while they may have similar barriers, no two neurodivergent employees are the same. This is why communication is so important in order to best understand what they struggle with, and find ways to support them. Neurodiversity in the workforce is needed, it will just take a couple of steps to get there. Don’t stereotype based on their condition, as each individual is different, and has different challenges to overcome and adjustments they may need.

Furthermore, there is a clear benefit of having neurodiversity in your workplace as presented in research by JPMorgan Chase. Their Autism at Work program found that people with autism work 48% faster and are 92% more productive than their colleagues – presenting a clear incentive for employers.

The social model of disability

The social model of disability states that people are disabled by barriers in society. It helps to show that barriers make life more difficult for neurodiverse individuals. Removing these barriers can create equality and changes the way that people talk about disability. The social model of disability identifies that the problem is with society not with the disabled person themselves. For example, if in school a child with dyslexia can’t read off of the board because of the font that is being used, the problem lies with the teacher and school for not providing accommodations for the child. However, not everyone agrees with the social model of disability. How anyone wants to talk about their disability is up to them.

Barriers for neurodiversity in the workplace

Neurodiversity in the workplace is needed, but we first need to identify the barriers that neurodivergent individuals face.

Communication styles

There are certain fonts that are difficult for dyslexic people to read. This means that it’s important to identify the fonts that the dyslexic employee struggles with and make sure it’s not commonly used, or sent to the employee.

Office setting

Some neurodivergent people struggle with concentrating if they are distracted. These distractions vary from person to person and may include noise, movement, light, smells, etc. Making arrangements in the office may help overcome this. For example, they could benefit from working from a private room in the office, working from home, or any other space that presents fewer distractions and is more comfortable for them.

Additionally, some of these distractions can contribute to sensory overload. For those who are sensitive to light, it may be beneficial for them to work in a space that has natural lighting. Moreover, to combat noise it may be helpful to supply noise-canceling headphones. Even wallpaper can cause over-stimulation for some, this could occur if it’s over-decorated.


Similar to office settings, computer screens can be quite distracting for some. They can also be too bright and lack applications to support neurodivergent employees. Similarly, desks may lack equipment/items that could help with personal organization which some may struggle with. This could include filing drawers, notepads, trays, organization apps, and more.


Breaks are important for both neurodivergent and neurotypical employees alike. However, some neurodivergent individuals may have a need for longer or shorter but more frequent breaks. For example, someone with ADHD may struggle working long hours and only have a single break which would cause their concentration levels to suffer.

Working practices

Some neurodivergent employees may have found ways to complete tasks that work for them, which may not work for a neurotypical employee. Therefore any changes expected to their working practices could massively deter them, causing stress. This is why it’s crucial to communicate with neurodivergent employees and find out if they have unique working practices so you get an idea of what to expect. Neurodivergent employees shouldn’t be expected to work the same way as neurotypical employees.

Lack of training on policies

A lack of understanding of the policies in place for neurodiversity in the workplace is a big barrier that affects neurodivergent individuals. If a neurodivergent employee is unaware of the policies that can support them, and what they are allowed to request from employers then that can be a barrier for them.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that neurodivergent employees face different workplace barriers. Therefore, to ensure they have the support they need, it is important to discuss their barriers and requirements on an individual basis. This conversation can help nurture your relationship with the neurodivergent employee. Organizations greatly benefit from neurodiversity and in order to reap these benefits, leaders must ensure neurodiverse employees have their needs met to grow to their fullest potential.