Navigating the Spectrum: A Day in the Office
As I walk into the bustling office, the fluorescent lights above cast a harsh glare that instantly makes me squint. The low hum of conversation and the constant clacking of keyboards reverberate through the open space, creating a symphony of sensory input that I need to navigate carefully. I'm Julie, and I'm neurodivergent.
I head to my desk, which I've carefully curated to suit my sensory preferences. It's tucked away in a corner, far from the fluorescent lights, and I've surrounded it with a small collection of calming plants that provide a soothing contrast to the sterile environment. The soft, ambient music playing through my noise-cancelling headphones helps drown out the distracting sounds around me.
One of the things I appreciate most about my workplace is the flexibility it offers. The management understands that not all employees thrive in the same environment, so I'm given the freedom to work in different spaces as needed. Today, I chose to stay at my desk, but I know that if I ever need a quieter space, I can easily retreat to one of the designated "quiet rooms" provided by our thoughtful office design.
As the day progresses, I reflect on my journey through the workplace as a neurodivergent individual. It's had its challenges, but it's also been a source of personal growth. I've learned to advocate for myself, to communicate my needs, and to appreciate the small victories. I've seen first-hand how a workplace that values diversity, including neurodiversity, can lead to a more inclusive and innovative environment.
At the end of the day, I leave the office, grateful for the progress we've made and hopeful for the future. I know that with continued understanding, awareness, and acceptance, the workplace can become a place where neurodivergent individuals like me not only survive but truly thrive.
How we use design techniques to help people like Julie.
The story above fails to mention that Julie holds two master’s degrees, both with honors and holds extraordinary talents in analytics.
As stated by Robert D. Austin and Gary P. Pisano (HBR, 2017) "Many people with these disorders have higher-than-average abilities; research shows that some conditions, including autism and dyslexia, can bestow special skills in pattern recognition, memory, or mathematics." making them the perfect candidate for high flying companies.
With this said, one crucial aspect of fostering neurodiversity in the workplace often overlooked is commercial interior design. And we are here to help!
The one-size-fits-all approach to office layouts may not accommodate the diverse needs of neurodivergent employees as demonstrated by Julie's interpretation. A neurodiverse-friendly workplace should offer a variety of workstations, from quiet, private offices for those who thrive in solitude to collaborative spaces for those who work best in groups. Adjustable furniture and modular layouts allow employees to personalise their workspace according to their preferences and needs.
Many neurodivergent individuals benefit from periodic breaks in a quiet and peaceful environment. Incorporating designated quiet rooms or retreat spaces within the workplace allows employees to recharge and regroup when needed, promoting better mental health and productivity.
Organisations should embrace inclusive design principles that go beyond accommodating neurodiversity. Elements like adjustable desks, ergonomic seating, and accessible technology can benefit all employees, creating an inclusive environment that benefits everyone.
While minimizing sensory overload is crucial, some sensory elements can be intentionally incorporated into the workplace to enhance well-being. Elements such as biophilic design (bringing nature indoors) and soothing colour palettes can create a more comfortable and stimulating atmosphere for everyone.
Designing for neurodiversity isn't just a social responsibility; it's a smart business decision that benefits everyone involved.
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