A Look in Neurodiversity at Work Trends in 2024

Apr 4
At Uptimize, working with organizations around the world to train and certify their professionals in neuroinclusion, we have a privileged and often exiting viewpoint into the global progression of neurodiversity at work.

Things have certainly evolved since our humble beginnings in 2016, a time of just a handful of exploratory “autism hiring programs”, initiatives that we supported with our very first neuroinclusion training certifications.

Today, we are seeing a number of key trends and themes, which you can see below:
More People Disclosing at Work?

Back in 2021, one research study suggested only around 10% of neurodivergent professionals typically choose to disclose at work. While it’s hard to quantify exactly how that has changed since, we are consistently seeing organizations looking to work with us due to their own staff increasingly choosing to share neurodivergent identities.

This is no surprise – the 2021 figure, likely long the norm, was so low that it was always likely this would increase as the topic gained more prominence, and in a context of growing employee expectations around the employee experience and support from their employers. This is likely also driven by greater diagnostic rates amongst young people over recent decades, as well as parents – typically professionals in the middle or later stages of their career – becoming more aware of topic as children get diagnosed.

What does this mean? Certainly, there must be an urgency to build awareness, as conversations when someone does choose to disclose are critical: the difference between feeling supported and valued as an employee, and choosing quickly to look elsewhere.

It’s also important to appreciate that neurodivergent staff could be of any age – and are not just young people – and that those going through a diagnostic process later in life may find this emotionally complex and stressful, and benefit from particular manager or peer support at this time. Indeed, as many have shared in Uptimize focus groups with the neurodivergent community, mid-life diagnoses may be experienced both as cathartic (with a new, clearer sense of self) and traumatic (through facing ongoing stigma around neurodivergence).

Growth of Neurodiversity Advocacy

One of the most striking developments of the past few years continues – the rise and rise of the Neurodiversity Enterprise Resource Group or “ERG”. Such groups have long existed to bring together other minority demographics at work – indeed, the first was formed in the 1960s, during the Civil Rights era, by African-American employees at Xerox. Until recently, most organizations did not have a specific group dedicated to their neurodivergent staff, but that has now changed, with some firms now boasting hundreds of members in vibrant, global communities. Even organizations with “only” a general Disability-focused network have typically seen a significant rise in activity around the topic of neurodiversity at work. We see no sign of this changing – rather, continued momentum (and, sometimes, greater funding) for neurodiversity advocacy within top organizations.

Increasing Demand For The Topic

Our first two points here lead us to the third – an increasing demand for neuroinclusion in organizations big and small. More people disclosing creates more neurodiversity-focused conversations – and issues when these involve uninformed or confused managers or HR staff. Growing internal self-advocacy from Neurodiversity ERGs also creates momentum, guidance and even pressure for businesses to do more for their neurodivergent staff, and switch away from a mindset that neurodiversity at work relates only to hiring future talent.

Meanwhile, the critical importance of the employee experience and retention – 2024’s top CEO priorities – is naturally leading HR teams to conducting deeper employee surveys to identify friction points and gaps that can be addressed. At Uptimize we are seeing more customers come to us because their staff have explicitly asked for the topic of neuroinclusion to be prioritized – and this should be no surprise. Not only is the neurodivergent population itself significant, it’s also increasingly clear that businesses cannot fulfill their People and inclusion commitments while the topic of neuroinclusion remains an obvious gap.

Proactive Inclusion

As organizations are embracing neuroinclusion and bringing neuroinclusion solutions to their business, we are seeing a clear desire to be as proactive as possible here. In the past, efforts at including neurodivergent staff were often reactive – wait for someone to “put their hand up” and disclose, and then hope to find an accommodation or adjustment that they are happy with.

This has changed markedly, as the clear advantages of a more proactive approach towards embracing different thinking styles – one that reduces the need for disclosure, and quickly benefits everybody – become more and more apparent. This kind of proactive attention can be applied to spaces – with offices reviewed with neuroinclusion in mind, to working arrangements, in management practices, and in the proactive offering of simple adaptations and tools that give employees a “menu” of supports to choose from before more formal accommodation requests need to be triggered.

Neuroinclusion Becoming a True Business Initiative

Neurodiversity – and its partly, of course, due to the second part of the word – has typically been seen as a Diversity & Inclusion priority, or one to be addressed through Disability or Accessibility-focused teams. Certainly, greater efforts at inclusion here are paramount, given we have an almost textbook case of a group finding themselves marginalized and excluded at work.

However, neuroinclusion is ultimately more than an inclusion topic only, given that neurodiversity ultimately refers to everybody – there is no one “normal” brain, and everybody has their own working and learning proclivities shaped by their brain wiring.

Regardless of whether individual employees have disclosed as neurodivergent, then, neuroinclusion remains paramount as a tactic and approach to get the most out of the one tool your most expensive asset (your people) are all bringing to work every single day. And as neuroinclusion is already proven to help organizations attract talent, improve managers and increase innovative outcomes, we are seeing the first signs of businesses embracing neuroinclusion not (only) as an inclusion priority, but as a strategic business imperative.