Is this flexible working considered an adjustment now, I hear you say? I mean post-covid hasn’t working from home become the new norm?
The reality is not for everyone. McKinsey Global Institute found in 2021 that about only 20 to 25 percent of the workforces in advanced economies could work from home between three and five days a week. Whilst this represents a huge leap forward with four to five times more remote work than before the pandemic it is still a relatively small proportion of the workforce.
It is therefore still relevant and important to advocate and shine light on one of the most commonly requested adjustments my neurodivergent coaching clients require.
Why do they require it? Well there are a multitude of reasons but it is generally relates to greater control of one’s sensory environment, improved focus and productivity and less distractibility, decreased pressure and anxiety related social interactions. Traditional office environments, where there may be a lot of noise, distractions, and social interactions can be difficult to navigate for neurodivergent individuals and working from home can offer a more controlled and comfortable environment.
Leaman & Bordass (2000) stated that in their research the lack of environmental control is the single most important concern for all office occupiers. This concern is magnified by those with sensory sensitivities like a large majority of neurodivergent individuals, where self regulation to manage in open workspaces is physically exhausting .
A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology by Kock, Kühne and Wagne (2016) also found distractions can have a significant impact on the well-being and productivity of employees. Exposure to noise and distractions in the workplace was associated with increased stress levels, reduced motivation, and decreased task performance. All these factors have significant implications for long-term employment and staff retention.
Additionally, for neurodivergent individuals who may struggle with social interactions or who may have difficulty reading social cues, working from home can offer a reprieve from the social demands of the workplace. Video conferencing tools can offer a way to communicate with colleagues and participate in meetings without the pressure of in-person interactions with great flexibility to stand, move or use sensory toys to help with processing and participate through verbal or chat functions with the aid of raising a virtual hand to speak up when in person can be anxiety producing.
Another benefit of working from home for neurodivergent individuals is the ability to work on a flexible schedule. Many neurodivergent individuals may have sleep difficulties, which can make it challenging to adhere to a traditional 9-5 work schedule. Working from home can allow individuals to set their own modified hours and work when they are most productive or work through when hyperfocused, which can lead to better job performance and overall well-being.
Of course, working from home 3, 4 or 5 days per week is not a panacea for all the challenges that neurodivergent individuals may face in the workplace. However, it can offer a more accommodating and supportive work environment that allows individuals to have control, experience low sensory days better utilise their strengths and abilities.
As organisations seek to best support their neurodivergent employees and promote a more inclusive workplace culture remote working is should be one of the first adjustments offered. Allow each individual the option to choose how they schedule their week; the research shows us, it is one of the most powerful inclusion tools.