Neurodiversity in Construction Workplace

Many people will have no idea what neurodiversity is or what it means, or what it means to employers, and certainly what it means to the construction industry. Simply put, neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain works and interprets information. It highlights that neurological variations, like any other form of variation should be recognised, respected and appreciated – that people with neurological variations should be treated to the same inclusivity as those of different gender, race, age, disability, sexual orientation and religion.

The majority of people are classed as neurotypical meaning their brains process information in the way that “society” expects them to. However it is estimated that 1 in 7 people are neurodivergent, having alternative thinking styles and behavioural traits such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It is only relatively recently that there has been a two fold move to firstly highlight how those considered neurodivergent have been overlooked in the workplace and excluded. Secondly to educate people on the unique strengths and skills neurodivergent people typically can have. Recent studies have shown that neurodivergent people very often have excellent problem-solving skills, are able to sustain focus over long periods of time, have data-driven thinking, an ability to see patterns and trends and are able to process information very quickly. All these skills are extremely advantageous to employers generally, and especially the construction industry. Typically neurodivergent people have gravitated towards tech industries and engineering companies, with the construction industry being at fault for a historic lack of inclusivity across many areas during the recruitment process. Finally, that seems to be changing, albeit slowly. Inclusivity as a policy must extend across the board and this includes neurodiverse thinkers, and construction companies need to recognise this – not just because it is right but also because they are overlooking a huge skill set.

Living as a neurodivergent person is not always easy; people are often misunderstood or their needs not adequately catered for. Companies need to start listening to and learning from their employees. Providing quiet workspace areas, supportive working environments and avoiding multiple screens and lights is a good start. Getting the best out of people is the route to success, and Szerelmey fully supports an inclusive working ethos.

 

Peter Guest

Site Administrator, Szerelmey

“I have Dyspraxia which is a neurological condition that sadly many people have never heard of. It means that my brain is wired differently and affects the way I process information which most obviously affects my co-ordination skills from small movements like doing up buttons or gripping a pen and handwriting, to big movements like running, driving a car or swimming. Other things affect my daily working life, like my speech, organisational skills, short-term memory skills and spatial awareness, which are all affected by the way my brain is wired. I’ve had to work hard to overcome this. I’m one of the many Dyspraxics who went through school with no diagnosis or support, which was difficult. I am sure there are thousands currently employed in the construction industry in the same boat as I was earlier in my career; struggling because I did not know what the condition was and the way it affects me.

With help through the government Access To Work scheme, which all neurodivergent people are legally entitled to, workers like me can overcome the challenges that we face. Small adjustments such as voice recognition software if typing and handwriting is difficult or a pair of noise-cancelling headphones as neurodivergent people can be sensitive to noise, can make a huge difference.  Even just the understanding that I may not be the best person to carry a tray of full of coffee mugs as spillages are almost inevitable is helpful!

Given that these conditions are life-long, many will have their own coping strategies that they’ve created themselves and have been using sub-consciously for years. Embrace neurodivergents because they bring with them an arsenal of strengths that could be missing from your workforce. Dyslexics may be reliant on spell-checker but can be incredibly good at visualising things in 3D – perfect for engineering and architecture. Dyspraxics may need to write down verbal instructions due to unreliable short-term memory but years of having to overcome challenges and find new ways of doing things makes them inherently creative, real problem solvers and idea generators.

With Szerelmey I have found an incredibly welcoming company with a diverse workforce, open minded and receptive to the way I think and work. I have helped devise, implement and manage new company-wide business practices, solutions to problems that I used to credit my creativity with.”

 

Neurodiversity in Construction Workplace - Szerelmey

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