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It’s time to celebrate neurodiversity: building an inclusive workplace culture

Insights Diversity and Inclusion

Erna De Ruijter-Quist

Chief People Officer, Westcon-Comstor

In a world where individuality is celebrated more than ever, it's time to focus our attention on neurodiversity. I prefer to refer to neurodiversity as ‘neuro-inclusion’, yet the accepted term seems to be neurodiversity – that’s what I will use.  

Whether it’s autism, ADHD, dyslexia, or Tourettes, the spectrum of neurological variation enriches our society in countless ways. It is about seeing these differences as unique expressions of the human experience.

The human brain has countless threads of experiences, thoughts, and perceptions. Some threads weave together effortlessly, forming patterns we recognise as ‘typical’ neurological functions. But others, vibrant and unique, weave in ways that challenge our preconceptions, creating a beautiful and diverse landscape known as neurodiversity.

This week, and every week, is a time to celebrate neurodiversity. It’s time to continue to build awareness, and an opportunity to focus on embracing the strengths, talents, and perspectives that neurodivergent individuals bring to the table.

Neurodiversity in the workplace – unleashing potential

Neurodiverse people continue to have great success in the workplace. Their detail-oriented strengths, intense ability to focus, and offering of unconventional thinking can lead to groundbreaking innovations.

Their ability to think outside the box and see the world from a different angle can spark different conversations, and therefore drive innovation, positive change, and different outcomes.

Supporting neurodiversity in the workplace

It is important to create inclusive environments where everyone, including neurodiverse individuals, feel accepted and valued for who they are. This means looking at what accommodations can be made in the workplace to help bring the best out of them, fostering understanding and acceptance among colleagues, and challenging stereotypes and prejudices.

At Westcon-Comstor, in certain offices, we have designated ‘quiet’ or ‘calm’ rooms available if someone finds office environments distracting or overwhelming. This is important for everyone, but even more so for people who are neurodiverse. Also, we offer hybrid working for many of our roles, which offers further flexibility to accommodate neurodivergent preferences.

In addition to accommodating changes to our physical working environment, it is also very important to focus on the interpersonal side. We all have different ways in which we process information and communicate, we all have our traits and quirks, whether you are neurotypical or neurodiverse. Building awareness and learning to work with all those differences, putting the spotlight on neurodiversity, is what makes for a very rich and unique culture.

We may not be there yet in fully accommodating neurodivergent needs, but we are certainly well on our way.

One of the most significant challenges faced by neurodiverse individuals is societal stigma and misconceptions. A study showed that 65% of neurodivergent employees fear discrimination from management. Too often, they are labelled as ‘abnormal’ or ‘deficient’ simply because their brains are wired differently. But what about the immense potential and strengths inherent in neurodiversity? To aid the process of knocking through barriers, we have a number of Employee Resource Groups at Westcon-Comstor that provide safe spaces where stories can be shared and heard, policy and practice can be built upon, to empower neurodivergent employees to reach their full potential, and reflect a true sense of community within our workforce.

As part of our global Responsible Business efforts, we are in the process of delivering an internal awareness and learning program around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), which will include a focus on neurodiversity.

Creating an inclusive workplace culture

At Westcon-Comstor, we don’t pretend to be perfect, we are open and will continuously learn and progress. We want to create a working environment where our neurodivergent employees feel comfortable talking about the topic and any support they may need.  

Celebrating neurodiversity is a recognition of the inherent value of every individual. By embracing neurodiversity, we can create a more empathetic, compassionate, innovative, and inclusive world for everyone.

Join me in celebrating the uniqueness of each human and honour the beautiful spectrum of neurodiversity that enriches our lives.