The Key to Creating Office Spaces for Everyone: Designing with Neurodiversity in Mind

  • Workplaces are more accessible than ever, but creating a space where everyone can thrive requires a more holistic approach, including subtle design elements.
  • The business case for inclusive design is key – these spaces not only attract the best talent in the industry, but they provide a sense of belonging to all employees and help bring out the best in them.
  • The sensory impact of a space should be taken into account as early as possible in the design phase and inform decisions from acoustic strategy to lighting choices.

This article was written by Tash Hewlettand was originally published on Work design magazine.

To design truly people-centric workspaces, you must maintain a delicate balance between varying priorities, tastes, and needs. When done right, human-centered workplaces boost productivity and promote wellbeing, and with up to 15% of people considered neurodiverse, finding that balance involves prioritizing individual needs. neurodivergent employees.

Workplaces are more accessible than ever, but creating a space where everyone can thrive requires a more holistic approach, including subtle design elements. This should be far from an additional consideration, the business case for inclusive design is key – these spaces not only attract the best talent in the industry, but they provide a sense of belonging for all employees and help to get the best out of them.

Designing with Neurodiversity in MindThe power to choose

When given the right work environment, neurodiverse employees are often high-achieving individuals. They will most likely have an overall understanding of their own ways of working, so it is important to get their input when designing an office space, this could be done by holding workshops with employees or surveys to gather comments.

By creating flexible workspaces, employers can meet a diversity of needs and show people that they trust them to adapt their work environment according to their needs. These arrangements can be modest, such as specifying dimmable lights in meeting rooms and quiet spaces. It’s important to remember that people have become accustomed to the power of choice when working from home, and shouldn’t have to sacrifice it when returning to the office even more regularly.

Designing with Neurodiversity in MindBuilding adaptability into workspaces helps soften the divide between spaces optimized for neurodiversity and those with other purposes. Recognizing neurodiversity ultimately means providing a choice that doesn’t involve people completely separating themselves from others. Design and accessibility aren’t mutually exclusive, and workplace designs that naturally range from open plan to intimate, or living to quiet, are more influential than spaces heavily labeled “accessible.” which may seem symbolic and condescending.

Designing with Neurodiversity in MindGive sense

People’s experience of a space is influenced by how it interacts with their senses, and for employees who are neurodivergent, this is something that can quickly become overwhelming depending on certain design choices. For example, the transition from office workplaces to more open environments can promote collaboration, but it can also become noisy, cluttered, and overly stimulating, which can hurt productivity. Better known as sensory overload, which can be particularly disruptive for people with ADHD and autism, whose high energy makes them proactive and enthusiastic about solving problems, but can also make them more susceptible to distractions caused by excessive noise, light and other sensory inputs.

Thus, the sensory impact of a space must be taken into account as early as possible in the design phase and inform decisions from acoustic strategy to lighting choices. The influence of color has a similar meaning for many people. Companies often use bright and dynamic branding to grab the attention of potential customers, but this can end up distracting employees when trying to create that sense of identity in the workplace. This doesn’t mean that branding and identity should be banned, but it can be adapted to better serve those who regularly work in certain environments. The introduction of cooler tones and smoother transitions makes the branding less intrusive and, if particularly bold, can even be removed entirely in areas designated for focus only.

Designing with Neurodiversity in MindInclusive technology

Deciding on the appropriate technology for new workspaces already involves catering to a wide range of attitudes and experiences, however, when specifying neurodiversity, the focus is even more on usability. Not being able to use technology presents a barrier to productivity, a problem that can be minimized with more intuitive user interfaces and comprehensive, compassionate training. Familiarity with a system goes a long way, and there are quick and easy ways to implement it when choosing new software. Take the example of room booking, if you’re moving to a digital system, red and green color codes are commonplace, and it’s this kind of simple consideration that can really help a space run as efficiently as possible. .

Much of it comes down to choice, especially between hardware and software, and there is a growing trend of diversity within most systems in an effort to provide greater accessibility.

Designing with Neurodiversity in MindA learning experience

We’re seeing a broad and enthusiastic rise in companies designing inclusive workspaces, and at Peldon Rose we’re happy to dedicate more time to proactive inclusion and accessibility. However, this means constantly growing our knowledge base and realigning our perspective to understand how everyone experiences the spaces we build.

In August 2021, when designing a new working environment for the MS Society in North London, we worked with a specialist consultant to provide a fully accessible space that the company needed. We developed a design that naturally brings people together in inclusive spaces, and the insights we gained from working with this industry expert helped us hold ourselves to higher standards when building for accessibility. , and neurodiversity in particular.

Educational opportunities are plentiful and employers and business leaders will benefit from taking advantage of them. Neurodiversity research and policy is an ever-evolving field, and there are many resources, from small-scale interventions such as LinkedIn Learning courses to formal training programs covering legal obligations and appropriate terminology. Ultimately, there is no substitute for a business that trusts its workforce to understand its own needs and it is imperative that physical office space works for everyone.

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