Originally posted on Campaign US by Lindsay Stein, May 4, 2020
With the vast majority of people working from home right now due to guidelines around COVID-19, companies are continually looking for ways to improve the remote experience for their staff, but what about neurodiverse talent?
Campaign US caught up with several industry insiders to hear how companies can best support their neurodiverse employees, including those with Down Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, autism, Asperger Syndrome and more, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
What measures can companies take to help their neurodiverse employees as they work from home right now amid the COVID-19 crisis, and how can companies continue to support these individuals amid the current challenges – whether creatively, emotionally or financially?
Stephanie Nadi Olson, Founder, We Are Rosie
Neurodiverse talent is a massive competitive advantage for businesses, particularly in areas of innovation. As we are all looking to innovate our way through this crisis, it’s critically important to create an inclusive working environment that will allow all talent to thrive. The good news is that if you’ve done a good job creating an inclusive culture, this shouldn’t require any radical change in your approach. Personalization, not prescription, will be the name of the game in supporting everyone on our teams right now, and always. Organizations should empower their leadership team to work on a 1:1 basis with the individuals on their teams, taking a truly human-centered approach, to ask how they can help. Focus on creating a space where your team can speak authentically and openly about their experience working and living through this crisis. Figure out how to do more of what’s working for them and less of what’s not.
Laurel Rossi, Chief Partnerships Officer, Organic
Neurodiverse employees—particularly Gen Z and millennials–have spent the majority of their lives learning how to build strong systems for coping with the neurotypical world by using technology and workarounds to lead a productive academic or professional life, so in the face of COVID many neurodiverse employees are adapting well to the new work from home normal. Neurodiverse employees are characteristically focused on productivity and carrying out activities to completion against all odds. Most individuals understand how to fit into complex situations and listen carefully to new instructions. All that said, we also know that neurodiverse employees work with accommodations in place—and many of those conventions have been ignored or superseded by getting everyone up-and-running at home. In that case there is a lot of ‘emotional abandonment’ of neurodiverse candidates. One of the most important observations I’ve made in my role as board chair at Creative Spirit, a non-profit that places neurodiverse candidates in fair wage positions, is that our coaches are a surefire way to ensure that neurodiverse employees, and their managers, are supported during this time. Creative Spirit supplies a lifetime coach to each candidate-turned-employee, who supports both the company and the employee. Coaches anticipate and help head off big challenges, while providing the emotional support everyone needs right now. While it’s been a hard road for everyone, creativity and empathy have exploded from my vantage point during this time. Digital connection has taken off as a means of support across the board. Right now everyone feels ‘different,’ and in the era of COVID, we are all working in the context of neurodiversity.
Ali Hanan, Chief Executive Officer, Creative Equals
Bringing work into the home can have different consequences for your teams. It’s important to be empathetic, considerate and compassionate during these times – particularly for any neurodiverse employees. Those with ADHD, dyslexia and autism for instance might have different sensory needs to neurotypical staff. In this new back-to-back zoom world, they might not feel comfortable using video calls. It’s important to find out their preferred communications method and support them with this – particularly if this is audio only. Staff engagement is critical during this time, keep your employees continually learning with access to training and development, so they are skilled up and ready to thrive once we’re back to a new normal.