In early October, pymetrics, in collaboration with Untapped, hosted a virtual lunch to discuss the impacts of the pandemic on neurodiverse talent at work programs. Neurodiversity is a way of thinking about neurological variations (such as Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder and Dyslexia) as variations from the typical population, rather than a disability.
The session was inspired by the World Economic Forum article on how ‘COVID-19 could make the world of work more inclusive. Especially for those who are neurodiverse’. The article describes how the en-masse migration from work offices to home offices during much of 2020 presents an impetus for us to reflect on previous norms around the workplace.
In the US alone, 85% of autistic people are unemployed or underemployed. pymetrics has been working with Untapped for the last 18 months to encourage more inclusive employment opportunities for neurodiverse talent. We were curious to know if the new way of working has truly been advantageous for this group of employees, if there are any unique challenges that they face, and if so, how can employers help them better adapt. The virtual luncheon would further provide members of the Neurodiversity Hub, a community of practice driven by Untapped, with a forum to share their experiences and learnings.
The session was attended by representatives across public and private sector organizations, including the likes of the Australian Federal Government Department of Home Affairs, Services Australia, ANZ, National Australia Bank, SAP, DXC Technology and IBM Australia.
Below are the reflections and takeaways by Andrew Eddy and the team at Untapped:
The “Designing for Neurodiversity in the New Model of Work” virtual luncheon, sponsored by pymetrics, was a great event. We had representatives from public and private sectors coming together to share their experiences and insights gained while working with neurodiverse employees during COVID-19.
During the session, participants described a variety of organizational responses to the pandemic, which encompass work practices, social connectedness, and mental health. While some of their neurodiverse employees have flourished working from home, producing significantly increased work output, others have struggled with remote working and, in particular, the contextual shift of their home becoming a workplace. To address these challenges, employers have developed a range of successful strategies that draw increasingly on virtual enablers to promote social connection, coaching and support.
For team members on the spectrum, maintaining a predictable and reliable work structure is particularly important. A number of participants shared that mental health concerns have been heightened for some employees with the loss of routine and social support. Dr. Darren Headley from La Trobe University OTARC (Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre) urged us to reject the stereotype that autistic individuals do not like to socialize. Social support mitigates the effect of loneliness, and workplaces provide these critical social networks. Finding alternative ways to keep that connection going is absolutely necessary.
As we often find, the challenges experienced by the neurodiverse are represented throughout the broader community. The awareness we create and the strategies we develop have far-reaching benefits beyond their original audience. Many of the adaptations and support systems developed during this time have been so effective they have become permanent fixtures within their workspace.
The event reinforced for us the adaptability and resilience of our neurodiverse employees. It also highlighted the creative capability within our neurodiversity network and the value from coming together in a forum such as this.
Untapped brings together organizations who are passionate about the integration of neurodivergent individuals in the workplace. It aims to create a sustainable neurodiverse employment ecosystem, and ultimately mobilize untapped talent. Click here to learn more.