Providing Support for Remote Workers with a Neurodiverse ConditionPosted in : Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion on 2 October 2020
Scott: So are there things that you're aware of that employers might have done to help neurodiverse employees when the world is turned upside down and they're working from home and they don't have those supports?
Louise: Yeah, definitely. And actually, what we have found is around the March and April time, we were seeing enquiries for support that necessarily might not have been sort of a hot topic or a big agenda. I mean, certainly, one of the things that we were starting to see coming through is people were asking for support to read information aloud and process certain information.
What you would find in the workplace environment . . . say you have been given a report to review or to make notes on, you would print that off and sit at your desk with your highlighters and make notes on the side of that report or pull out information that would be relevant.
But for a lot of people working from home, they didn't have access to a printer, so they were having to read that report on the screen, which, you know yourself, some reports that are shared can be 30, 40, 50 pages-plus. So that was causing a lot of eyestrain for individuals. They were having to spend a lot of time looking at the screen.
So what we were able to do with our solution is provide the text-to-speech tool, so actually, you could listen to that information being read aloud whilst also maybe replying to an email or making notes separately.
We also had research tools, which meant you can highlight information, actually, within the document without printing that and collect all that information separately. So that was really helping individuals process that information in a different way.
And even looking at for individuals with dyslexia, that audio support can be really beneficial because it means you're not having to struggle through huge pieces of text to try and understand the information.
Even with the change of people working from home, you were starting to get policies being sent out about your working from home policy, COVID policy. It just seemed there were a lot of updates coming through. So we've started to see a lot of interest, actually, from software companies who traditionally are working with a lot of staff who are coders, developers, they're used to working in such specific language.
But what we have found is they are seeing neurodiverse traits coming through from a lot of their staff, but they have to share these COVID policies, their working from home policies. But for them, reading tonnes and tonnes of information isn't what they want to do. So we are then able to provide them, again, with that text-to-speech, the Audio Maker tools, so really providing those alternative solutions to process information in a way that benefits them.
Scott: Yeah, one of the things we're doing for the Annual Review this year is working with Think People. We have just done a survey of customers about what they've done to engage remote working staff and what they've been doing over the last however many months, it seems like years, since the lockdown that we've had.
But I don't think that we covered issues like that, that there may be things that we're doing as employers just trying to keep people up to date, which is actually making matters worse if we don't provide some additional support, like the things you've been chatting about, that you can listen to the document, or providing extracts, or whatever it happens to be. I've never really thought about you're making it worse by trying to help people.
Louise: It's one of those things obviously as an organisation you want to equip yourself with as much information and make sure that they're aware of information and support that's available to them. But if I look at my day today, I was on two video calls before today's webinar, I have another video call after this, and I have another video call in the afternoon. That's four calls where you're looking at the screen all day, plus on top of any work that you've got to do. I think we've all sort of started to struggle from that video fatigue.
So, if you're staring at a screen all day and then reading information on a screen, you start to actually . . . it all sort of blends into one. And if you have a neurodiverse condition, where maybe attention deficit disorder can be the condition, maybe your inbox is filling up, your video calls, and you have things to do, it's hard to actually focus. Where is your attention meant to be? "Am I focussing here today, on this today?"
Working from home as well . . . I'm sure this is actually something probably everybody has really felt. The lines become slightly blurred of home and work. So you'll find that people who maybe have a project they're working on end up working even longer because they won't finish and there's no break from home and work.
So, again, going back to the question that somebody had put forward about anxiety and timekeeping, those are all becoming key issues, which again are all related to many of the neurodiverse conditions.
I mean, the sort of general statistic is that there's one in seven people that have a neurodiverse condition. So, if you're thinking of your staff numbers, there may be two, three, four, and possibly more people who are struggling inside just to try and keep up with the demands of kind of the new normal, I suppose to say, of day-to-day work.
Scott: Yeah, it's kind of tough. Seamus, moving back to you, we've got a number . . . Louise just said there one in seven people or whatever are likely to have some kind of neurodiverse condition, which means that they may well be struggling if they're working from home or if the systems have changed and they don't have those kind of supports. But unfortunately, for employers, quite a lot of employees don't disclose that they've got any kind of neurodiverse condition and they don't want their colleagues to be aware of that.
More from Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion
- What are the latest changes to the Furlough Scheme (July 2021)?
- What are the legal pitfalls for an employer in insisting that staff are vaccinated?
- What is the menopause guidance and what factors should employers consider when developing a menopause policy?
- What are the issues surrounding mandatory vaccines for employees?
- Can employees insist upon working from home on the basis that it is now custom and practice?
The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.