Growing up Neurodivergent
“Nearly 1 in 5 Americans may experience some form of mental health condition each year.” According to the US Department of Labor. As someone who falls into that statistic, having been diagnosed with four mental health conditions, navigating life hasn’t been easy.
Being diagnosed with severe anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD, and an eating disorder has made for a difficult upbringing in many ways. Despite challenges, I’ve never let my conditions hold me back from moving up and forward in life. Going to therapy and continually trying new medication paired with coping mechanisms have been crucial for my healing and recovery. Since graduating in 2020, during a time that declined my mental health further, I’ve made it a goal to improve my quality of life as a neurodivergent adult–especially within the workplace.
Who is Responsible for Creating a Mental Health-Friendly Workplace?
When crafting a safe and nourishing work environment for neurodivergent people, I believe the responsibility lies on both the individual and the employer. As a young professional, I do my part to work on personal habits that help me perform my best.
Some practices include organizing my to-do lists in a way that helps me prioritize work. Sometimes it’s setting timers for tasks to help me avoid procrastination or spending too long on one thing. I’ve also learned to write down everything, from quick conversations to hour-long meetings; that simple action accommodates my memory and auditory processing issues. While I need to take individual action, it’s up to my employer to provide me with an environment where I feel safe to speak up about support. On top of that, my current employer has practices in-place accommodating neurodiverse needs, which should be commonplace at any job.
Accommodating Neurodiverse Employees
I believe that the following should be taken into consideration when shaping a work culture suitable for neurodiverse professionals:
- Flexible Work Location
Global pandemic aside, being allowed to work remotely to some capacity should be non-negotiable. Whether fully remote or hybrid, there should be no forced daily commute. Not having to have a daily commute is highly beneficial for neurodivergent people. It means being able to work from your most comfortable and creative spaces. It means having the option to avoid overstimulation or severe social anxiety triggered by loud in-person settings (during the commute or in the office).
JUV allows its contractors and employees this much-needed flexibility; having extra time to myself at night or sleeping in more in the morning can sometimes make all the difference in my mood and productivity for the day.
- Internal Calls Being Webcam Optional
There are days when it’s hard for me to care for my hygiene and appearance, so I prefer the webcam be off. There are days my anxiety is severe, making it easier for me to speak when I know I’m not on camera. It’s not every day, but when those days hit, I appreciate the option to be webcam off without feeling judged.
- Normalizing Mental Health Days
It’s common to feel burnt out, overly stimulated, or low energy in the workplace as a neurodivergent professional. It doesn’t make me a weak or unengaged employee; it’s a sign I need a mental reset. JUV Consulting has normalized mental health days & breaks, which I admire because mental health is just as important as physical health. If someone can take a sick day, they can take a mental health day. Of course, some people may take advantage of mental health days, but they can do the same for a cold.
Employees who take their job seriously and are grateful for the accommodations offered won’t take advantage of the systems in place. From an employer standpoint, I find that implementing this policy shows the company’s trust in its employees and appreciation for them.
- Encouraging Casual Check-Ins with Managers & Colleagues
I’ve been lucky enough to have genuine connections with managers and colleagues where we can have casual conversations centering around how we’re feeling in general, if we feel comfortable with workloads, etc. My direct manager encourages bringing our authentic selves to work; this means being open and honest if I’m feeling overwhelmed or dealing with negative feelings.
Establishing a work culture where managers and colleagues check in on one another is a great way to destigmatize mental illness in the workplace. It builds connections among team members and instills in employees that it’s okay to speak up if accommodations and support are needed.
Neurodivergent People Belong in the Workplace
We’re passionate, hardworking individuals who appreciate a work culture that normalizes talk surrounding mental health and disorders. We can’t “turn off” a mental health condition just because we’re working; it stays with us even on the job, which is why working for an employer who accepts us as our neurodiverse selves, is crucial.