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Eight Practical Ways to Improve the Workplace Eight Practical Ways to Improve the Workplace

Eight Practical Ways Employers Can Improve the Workplace Experience — for Everyone


1 Start times

The quality of sleep of different neurotypes ranges broadly and at different times of day. Some neurodivergent employees experience time blindness, an inability to sense the passage of time.

Opportunity for Culture and Design Intervention
Offer flexible working hours—which can be more conducive to energy levels and productivity—where people can choose to work at their peak performance. Rethink punctuality relative to the role. Is the fact that someone is seated at their desk by 9:00 a.m. critical to performance? Cushman & Wakefield’s Experience per Square Foot™ (XSF) data shows that people with a flexible schedule have a 40% better workplace experience.

2 The commute

Commuting can cause sensory overload and over-stimulation to different neurotypes. Unpredictability of commute factors can cause stress and anxiety for those who rely on structure and pattern. 

Opportunity for Culture and Design Intervention
Hybrid work schedules offer employees the opportunity to work in an environment that is comfortable for them and that they can control. Flexibility can offer off-peak commuting options to reduce the time lost while commuting and the added stress and anxiety associated with rush hour.

3 Conference room meetings

Photosensitivity has long been associated with autism. Some neurodivergent people have trouble hearing and processing sound, ultimately increasing cognitive strain.

Opportunity for Culture and Design Intervention
Ensure rooms are not over-lit and that lighting levels are adjustable. Avoid fluorescent lighting. Consider circular tables in conference rooms to help ensure everyone can hear and participate. Also, consider the use of a CART, a speech to-text app that makes it easy to capture the richness of an entire meeting.

4 Hallways and passageways

Some neurodivergent employees struggle to find a sense of order in passageways that lack directional signage and indicators. As a result, the office layout can feel disorganized.

Opportunity for Culture and Design Intervention
Create a welcoming workplace and design spaces that are intuitive and easy to navigate. Emphasize wayfinding cues through repetition
of signage and consistent messaging, with strong graphics and a common theme. Incorporate artistic landmarks, such as memorable photos or paintings, to help with a sense of place and direction. Use naming conventions, such as conference room names, that are logical and easy to find.

5 Individual workstations or offices

Noise and visual distractions can have an inordinately large impact on neurodiverse staff, causing focus to suffer. Additionally, sensitivity to temperature can impact their ability to do their best work. People like to have their bearings of where they are in the workplace, as it can be uncomfortable and stressful to lose a sense of where you are in a floor plan.

Opportunity for Culture and Design Intervention
Encourage the use of noise-cancelling or -reducing headphones to limit distractions and reduce peripheral volume that may be intruding personal workspaces. Individual seating “neighborhoods” with different temperature levels enable neurodiverse staff to find the zone that works best for them. Make sure that wall heights are not too high so that people don't lose sense of where they are in the workplace and not too low so that there are too many visual distractions for those trying to do heads-down tasks.

6 Café or breakroom experiences

Though not always, some neurodivergent people avoid small talk, and tend to avoid café and breakroom-type spaces.

Opportunity for Culture and Design Intervention
Consider spaces that allow for “parallel play” and shared activities that don’t require continual conversation. Also, not all break rooms or cafés need to be the same. Design some as “we-space” to promote conversation and interactions, while providing a balance of “me-space” rooms for quiet, personal time to read, focus and recharge without distractions.

7 Virtual team meetings

Ambient noise can be especially distracting to neurodiverse staff. Overtalking and multiple conversations can render comprehension a challenge. 

Opportunity for Culture and Design Intervention
Offer alternative space types, such as quiet rooms or phone rooms, where people can get away from their desk to take a virtual meeting in a quiet, secluded room void of external stimulus. Consider turning on closed captioning for all meetings so that all participants can improve comprehension and engagement during meetings. Create a friendly environment where people can openly discuss when meetings have too many overlapping conversations.

8 Afternoon coffee with colleague 

It isn’t only neurodivergent minds that need to decompress and take a break from workplace stimulus; everyone needs this.

Opportunity for Culture and Design Intervention
Incorporate natural elements, such as wood floors, natural greenery and water, as well as access to the outdoors and natural light, all of which help humanize the space and help people relax when they are away from their desks.


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