Sanderson celebrate Neurodiversity within the workplace
Neurodiversity within the workplace
Neurodiverse individuals play an important role within society, yet there is still a long way to go when it comes to making the neurodiverse feel accepted, represented, and heard, even within the workplace.
An article by the Financial Times, reported on the recent launch of the Institute of Neurodiversity in the UK, Europe, and Australia as a way “to give a voice to all neurodiverse individuals”. The ION was started by former Chair of the Institute of Directors, Charlotte Valeur. Charlotte was diagnosed with autism in her 50s and has now launched this campaign for more inclusion for neurodivergent persons, she says that “the ultimate goal is that we don’t need all the sub-labels; that we are simply being accepted for who we are, as people of society”.
Sarah Mouneimneh, who recently joined the Government & Defence sector here at Sanderson, talks about her experiences being a neurodiverse individual and what changes can be made to help others feel valued equally.
Sarah was diagnosed with Asperger’s only two years ago and says she felt like “the odd one out…I couldn’t connect with people on an emotional level and found it very isolating” within many situations of her life, including working environments.
She found it extremely important to approach places she worked at to discuss her Asperger’s and find ways they can help, to create a space which she was suited to, she wanted them “to work with my diagnosis, not against it”. For people with neurodiverse conditions having an environment that makes them feel not only equal and heard but also safe can be play a huge part to their day-to-day.
During her interviewing process for Sanderson, Sarah initially kept her Asperger’s quiet, she says “many companies talk about inclusion and diversity, but I was worried that a company as big as Sanderson wouldn’t have time to focus on my individual needs and I was very apprehensive, as I wanted a company to embrace by Asperger’s in the same way I do”.
However, during her second stage she found the confidence to reveal what she calls her superpower and said that “Sanderson made me feel like they would take me on as I am and work with me and my needs and I feel super lucky to have found that”.
What are some of the ways a workplace can help those who are neurodiverse feel accepted and represented?
“More awareness is a good place to start, this could be in the form of celebrating Autism Awareness Week or bake sales to raise money and just start a conversation”. Sarah sits wearing her sunflower lanyard with pride, saying she wears it as a flag of distress to show that she may be feeling slow or nervous that day, but it is important for people to know why she and others wear it, “I want these hidden disabilities to be unhidden, turned over and seen”.
In what ways do Sanderson support you?
Sarah mentions access to facilities such as the wellness room and quiet working spaces have been helpful for her since joining Sanderson, especially as someone who can be hyper-sensitive to her surroundings. Noisy environments where there is a lot going on can be a trigger for many of those who are neurodiverse. “I can go to have some quiet time if I need to or take calls in one of the quiet zones and I love that you are encouraged to get up from your desk and move around, Sanderson feels like a really collaborative workplace.”
Flexible working is also something that can be beneficial and although Sarah likes the mental stimulation of going into the office, she says, “the fact I can carry out my job at home if needed is great!”
Like many, leaving her previous job was a hard thing for Sarah to do as it had become a comfort zone to her, but she says, “change needed to come, and I am so glad that change has been Sanderson. I leave work feeling energised, super rewarded and safe”.
There is still much conversation to be had surrounding those who are neurodiverse and what ways society and workspaces can make them feel heard and accepted but having conversations with those with conditions like Sarah’s and raising awareness is a good place to start.