Brad Bruce, one of Alchemist’s Customer Success Managers shares his views on the topic discussed in this weeks’ episode of 40 Minute Mentor ‘Overcoming Adversity’ with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Britain’s greatest Paralympic athlete.
When you think about accessible working environments, what do you think about?
Right answers include ramps, elevators and appropriate bathroom access.
These are now considered the standard for established employers as part of their DEI&B efforts but what about the less obvious needs for some employees?
Hidden or non-obvious conditions could include Chronic fatigue, Chronic dizziness, Epilepsy, Severe allergies, ADHD, or any Autism Spectrum Conditions. Take autism as an example – This is a life-long incurable condition that impacts approximately 1.1% of the population, with many more adults remaining undiagnosed due to historic understanding of the spectrum of conditions and accessibility to diagnosis assessments respectively.
That’s almost 1 million UK residents living with Autism and it’s likely that you know someone or are connected to someone, in your network, who consciously or unconsciously lives with autism and it’s very likely that your employer also employs someone with ASC.
Individuals with Autism spectrum conditions could bring a great deal of value to businesses if there is the right accessibility put in place.
Do you respect Elon Musk for his business success, as one of the wealthiest men on the planet, or Greta Thunberg for her ability to stand up in front of the world to communicate her strong beliefs? How about Wildlife expert and TV presenter Chris Packham for his incredible specialist knowledge of wildlife? If these people don’t peak your interest. Has Sir Anthony Hopkins, Dan Ackroyd, Jerry Seinfeld or Satoshi Tajiri (the inventor of Pokémon) had any impact or influence on your life?
All these people have something in common. A hidden condition. They all have an Autism Spectrum Condition.
Individuals with this condition may experience sensory processing disorder in the physical environment around them. This could include hypersensitivity to noise levels, smell, and visual overstimulation.
To support employees, it could mean offering a physical space where sensory stimuli are minimized or absent for people to work from. This could be an area where there’s less visual distractions like colourful furniture or busy patterns on walls/ floors or where there’s fewer open conversations or phone conversations taking place. If food is available, have options for those who have other preferences. Give plans for meetings or events well in advance and keep to scheduled meetings. Give agendas with detail so there’s few or no surprises that cannot be planned/ prepared for. If possible it could even be offering the chance to NOT be included in team meetings or team events if these are optional or if you could get information from these team members beforehand.
When communicating with employees, use their communication preferences to help them and you get the right information and better results.
In bathrooms, give the option of hand towels as a required alternative to hand driers (these can be alarmingly noisy to some). It might even mean being more flexible with break periods so some individuals can utilize communal spaces during quieter periods.
These are all reasonable adjustments to provide a more accessible working environment for someone that could bring tremendous value to your business.
If you give people the accessibility, the time and the space to do great things, chances are they will deliver as you need them to and maybe even exceed your expectations.
Given the many strengths that individuals with less visible conditions bring to the workplace, as highlighted by Brad, organisations can really make a difference by supporting their employees in overcoming adversity and challenges. By creating an inclusive and truly accessible environments and providing the necessary resources and support, businesses can not only improve the lives of employees with additional needs but also boost their own performance.
If you’re looking for some instant inspiration, check out the rest of our 40 Minute Mentor content first.