The Future of design is Neurodiverse: Inspiring divergent collaboration through design

1 December 2022

Neurodiversity refers to the diversity of human cognition including conditions such as ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Dyspraxia. Surprisingly, 1 out of 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent, meaning over 14% of the population processes information and  learns and functions differently, influencing the way they work and how they approach work. More neurodivergent employees are entering the workforce than ever before, bringing fresh perspective and valuable skill sets with them.

With this comes the opportunity to bring workspace design and company culture together to provide a sense of belonging and inclusion for all colleagues. A workspace can be beautifully designed, but if it isn’t embedded  in the company’s values, personality, and diverse talent force at its core, then it runs the risk of becoming an inaccessible workspace design which lacks consideration for diverse needs. According to the BCO’s “Designing for Neurodiversity’ report published in May 2022, the neurodiverse community remains underserved in the current employment landscape, highlighting the misalignment between the cognitive and social exclusion between the neurodiverse individual and the built environment.

Disability is not necessarily something innate, but rather external factors, particularly environments, can disable or enable many individuals. Our list of versatile design elements provides a checklist of considerations to help make your workplace design inclusive and healthy spaces for all.

Disabling: Heightened sensitivity to noise
Enabling: Consider designing workspaces with quiet corners or concentration rooms to allow employees to choose from a variety of auditory settings when working.

Research by The British Journal of Psychology has indicated that constant or sudden noise can decrease the accuracy of work by as much as 67% and sudden noise can be especially challenging for neurodivergent individuals. Creating work spaces that can absorb sound, partitioning sections of the workspace or strategically placing objects to create concentration rooms are a great way to combat this.

Disabling: Heightened sensitivity to light
Avoid the use of bright, flickering overhead lighting if you can. Include areas of low lighting in office spaces where people can feel protected and cocooned.

Disabling: Overstimulation and difficulties regulating mood
Make use of green space. The use of plants in office spaces can create a soothing, enjoyable and visually pleasing environment

Biophilia is a design practice that tries to bring nature indoors and it is an effective and visually pleasing way of minimising distressing triggers for neurodiverse people. The use of natural light and natural elements like foliage not only has a calming effect, but can even improve the air quality of the working environment according to Architectural research.

Disabling: Difficulty with orientation

Enabling: Clear signage in place to help employees orientate themselves

Disabling: Difficulty staying in one place when working and inconsistent levels of comfort

Enabling: Offering multiple seating options (sofas, standing desk, assistive equipment)

Long gone are the days of the traditional desk and chair where you sit for hours on end. Stretching, thinking, reading out loud and moving around the workspace allows employees to immerse themselves more into their working environment.

Disabling: Distracting patterns and visually loud design
: Steering clear of colourful loud patterned floors which can cause confusion to walk across or can cause fixation.

Loud wall designs and complicated floor patterns can be distracting and stressful. Design options to consider include using neutral colours like cream and grey to promote calmness.

Disabling: Confusing office layout
Creating anchor points for specific workgroups indicated by colour, graphics, or displays

These design techniques can be implemented in a way where people don’t realise it’s a neurodiverse space – this level of inclusivity should be woven into not just the company building but the company culture itself.

Interested in learning more about how your office design can reflect your welcoming culture? Contact us today for an informal chat about the needs of your business.

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