Remote work could bring more opportunity for neurodiverse employees

Traditional office environments usually present many challenges for the neurodiverse workforce

Lesson #
March 29, 2021
Filed:

Before the pandemic, there were many companies that were resistant to offering employees flexibility to work from home. A lot has changed over the past year, and companies are increasingly open to remote work options. This could mean more opportunity for neurodiverse employees, who struggle in traditional office environments. Plus, learn “catch-all.”


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Transcript

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Remote work could bring benefits to neurodiverse employees

Lesson summary

Hi there everyone, Jeff here, and welcome to Plain English lesson number 350. Nice round number, right? That makes it easy to remember the URL: PlainEnglish.com/350. That’s where JR has posted the transcripts, translations, video, and all the other lesson resources. PlainEnglish.com/350.

Coming up today, “neurodiversity” is a term to describe people who have intellectual or learning disabilities like autism, dyslexia, or attention deficit hyperactive disorder, or ADHD. The workplace presents a number of challenges specific to the neurodiverse. But the world of remote work might open up new opportunities to people who struggled to be their best in a traditional work environment. The expression we review today is “catch-all” and we have a quote of the week.

Neurodiversity in the post-COVID workplace

If you’ve spent any time working for or with a big business, you’ve probably heard about the importance of diversity in the workplace. Long ago, large organizations realized that having a workforce made up of people with a variety of backgrounds, viewpoints, abilities, and life experiences is an advantage.

Having a workforce comprised of people with all different characteristics can help a company solve problems, generate creative solutions, spot opportunities, and connect with customers. Many—not all, but many—large organizations see a diverse workforce as a competitive advantage. We can debate the extent to which organizations are successful in this respect, but many at least strive to build a diverse workforce.

But there is one type of diversity that for too long has been overlooked or simply not prioritized in business, and that is neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is a catch-all term to describe people who have intellectual or learning disabilities like Asperger’s syndrome, autism, dyslexia, and severe social anxiety. In this lesson, we’ll say that people are “neurodiverse” if they have one of these characteristics; we’ll say they are “neurotypical” if they do not. And of course we’ll recognize that everyone is an individual: not every neurodiverse, nor every neurotypical, person is the same.

Speaking generally, however, neurodiverse people can bring many advantages to the workplace: they can be great at math, they tend to have high technical skills, they can concentrate for long periods of time, and spot patterns that are invisible to others. They are often very loyal and dedicated to their jobs.

But the typical workplace environment can make it difficult or impossible for a neurodiverse person to be their best. They can suffer from sensory overload. That means they find it hard to function when they receive too much visual or audible stimulation. That can be from fluorescent lighting, sounds coming from all directions, and constant movement of people within their line of sight. As one autistic worker put it, “There’s no such thing as a welcome surprise.” The typical hustle and bustle of an office is something many neurotypical people can block out (some even like it). But it can be crippling to a neurodiverse person.

Likewise the commute to work: riding on a train or a bus can heighten anxiety or cause sensory overload. If a neurotypical person arrives at work a bit tired from the commute, a neurodiverse person might start his or her day exhausted and stressed out.

This is all not to mention the social interactions that are the lifeblood of the modern white-collar office: meetings, phone calls, happy hours, and casual encounters are all opportunities to build connections with others, promote yourself, and work collaboratively on a common goal. But social interactions can be very difficult for neurodiverse people to manage. Taking turns in a conversation, maintaining eye contact, reading body language, making idle conversation, and knowing when to get down to business : these are things that come naturally to many neurotypical people. But they are a minefield for the neurodiverse. They often don’t know how to react or they have social tics that make them seem different. These tics could be rocking back and forth, avoiding eye contact, or speaking in a monotone voice.

These challenges mean neurodiverse people suffer in a workplace that prizes social status. Speaking generally, neurodiverse individuals have a hard time getting a job, and, once they have one, they have a hard time keeping it or getting promoted. This is a personal tragedy for the individuals—and a missed opportunity for society at large. That may be changing now, however.

Prior to COVID, neurodiverse individuals had to ask for accommodations, specifically the ability to work from home, where it’s easier to concentrate and where they can more easily manage the stress of social interactions. Unfortunately, though, this permission was often not granted: company managers said that being present in the office was necessary to do a job.

Until, that is, even the neurotypical had to work from home every day. All of a sudden, companies realized that face time in the office was not as essential as they had previously assumed. Even clients didn’t mind having video calls.

Neurodiversity advocates are optimistic that companies will be more open to allowing remote work and other accommodations that will help people of all abilities thrive in the workplace. It might mean that some neurodiverse workers will have opportunities that would previously have been denied to them. Tools like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams allow users to dial up and dial back the social interaction, according to their preference. Being able to turn off video on a Teams call is a nice plus if you’re having a bad hair day; turning down the volume is nice if you have a headache. These are small benefits for a neurotypical person. But for a neurodiverse person, that level of control over video and audio can be the difference between being productive and being overcome with anxiety.

Bigger companies leading the way

It’s nice to see big companies making a special effort to accommodate autistic and other neurodiverse workers. SAP, a software company; JP Morgan Chase, a Bank; Microsoft; and EY, an accounting firm, are all implementing special hiring programs to attract and retain neurodiverse workers. You can certainly imagine there’s a lot to do in software, banking, accounting, and consulting that fits the skills that the neurodiverse bring.

¿Hablas español?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into Spanish. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

你说中国话?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Parlez-vous français?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Você fala português?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

日本語は話せますか?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Parli italiano?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Sen Türkçe konuşmayı biliyor musun?

The transcripts of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Turkish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Mówisz po polsku?

The transcript of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Polish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

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