how to design for inclusiveness Introduction

By Lee Daniels, JLL Workforce Manager, EMEA

Last September, financial services specialists joined forces to create the Group for Autism, Insurance and Neurodiversity (GAIN) to champion the world of neurodiversity and create in accessible ways in the workplace. The initiative was launched to develop an understanding of neurodiversity, prove the positive impact of a neurodiverse workforce, and bridge the gap between neurodiverse talent and the world of insurance, investment and finance. financial services. Next to it, the National Disability Strategy released by the government in July 2021, both of these offer promising beginnings to creating a truly inclusive workplace. However, there is much more to do and we all have a responsibility to change the discourse around neurodiversity and strive to create truly inclusive workplaces.

Although companies are making significant progress in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, many organizations lack a specific inclusion strategy for neurodiversity in the workplace. of work.

Stigma and misconceptions surrounding neurodiversity are widespread. A report from the Institute of Leadership and Management in 2020 indicated that half of managers were not comfortable employing neurodiverse people. It is clear that business leaders need to challenge stereotypes and strive to better understand the needs and conditions of people with neurodiversities.

As a starting point, it is crucial to adopt more inclusive language and positive terminology when it comes to people with neurodivergent diseases. Moving away from ‘dys…’ to emphasizing ‘ability’, ‘para-ability’, ‘determined people’ are some examples of positive language to use.

One in seven of us identify as neurodivergent in the UK, an umbrella term for a range of differences in individual brain function, which diverges from typical. These people think things differently and think outside the box. Therefore, it is crucial that companies celebrate this diversity of thought and recognize it as a competitive advantage. While the financial sector has made great strides in promoting and recruiting a diverse workforce, in terms of equality, gender and disability, neurodiversity is often overlooked.

In the fallout from the pandemic and the transition to normalcy, we must challenge and address the failures of the current work environment in restoring and advocating for neurodiversity. Conscious and smart employers will recognize the uniqueness of neurodiverse people and banish the “one size fits all” approach through the promotion of equal space for all.

But how can we, as employers, create an inclusive and supportive environment for neurodiversity to keep people coming back to the office?

The Overwhelming Office

The workplace is a challenging environment for many, especially as we return to the office. The fast-paced work environment can be a source of acute stress for people with neurodivergent disorders like ADHA, autism, and dyslexia. 90% of disabilities are not visible and it is essential that we take into account the barriers that neurodiverse people face in the workplace.

While for some neurodivergent people, working from home has been a welcome change, given the ability to manage their own work environment, companies need to integrate these aspects into the office space and allow people to do what they they must do to be productive. . The inclusive design will encourage people to return to the office after working from home and stimulate a conducive work environment.

Neurodiversity is essential for every insurance and investment team. Diversity in brain function is just a competitive advantage for any business, and we need to recognize that strength. Among many skills, neurodivergent people are creative thinkers, good problem solvers, multitaskers, and have high levels of energy and enthusiasm. These skills are essential in a whole range of jobs in the financial sector. Whether it’s an insurance broker, financial advisor, actuary or risk and compliance officer. The sector should build on and build on the GAIN initiative to design an inclusive workplace.

Designing an inclusive workplace

We need to consider individual differences as a design imperative. The fundamentals of design, including light, form, line, color, texture, space, and technology, all play into the varying levels of productivity of a neurodivergent person.

When designing for neurodiversity, it is important to consider all five senses in these design fundamentals. In all design decisions, aspects to consider should include light, acoustics, color sequencing, compartmentalization, transition, sensory, escape, and restoration. Light and noise levels can be disorienting and distracting for some people. For example, people with autism are known to have extreme sensitivity to fluorescent lighting, which can often be overwhelming.

Likewise, scale, symmetry, and size can all impact the productivity levels of neurodivergent people. Paying attention to the acoustics of a space can improve the workplace and make it more comfortable for noise-sensitive people. For example, designers are increasingly using materials to control sound through absorption techniques or baffles to attenuate noise.

Designers should consider incorporating quiet spaces where employees can disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the office and for neurodiverse staff where they can take a break from sensory overload. We should consider using warm, neutral colors to stimulate a calm environment, so that employees can recharge their batteries.

Incorporating green space and connecting to the natural environment has a grounding effect on neurodiverse workers and can help improve mood and performance. A Study of Human Spaces found that these natural elements can improve employee well-being by up to 15%, while reducing stress and boredom. Therefore, when designing an inclusive space, the use of indoor plants and greenery should be a must.

With that in mind, companies will be able to create a space that works not just for people with neurodiversities, but for everyone. Caring for people as individuals as well as employees and reinventing the office for neurodivergent people will benefit everyone who visits your workspace.

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