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An office lounge with two high-back sofas.

Designing Offices to Support Neurodiversity

For many companies, improving diversity has become a key priority. But in addition to attempting to improve gender and racial diversity, this can also include representation of neurodiverse individuals. It’s estimated that about 15%-20% of the U.S. population is neurodivergent in some way and some common examples of neurodiversity include autism, dyslexia, and ADHD.

Neurodiverse people can have a lot of unique skills to offer the companies they work for, such as innovative ways of thinking, high levels of focus, and strong technical and creative skills. However, they can have some unique sensory needs that need to be addressed in the workplace, such as high sensitivity to things like noise, lighting, temperature, and busy visual patterns. But one neurodiverse person may have needs that are different from another’s. So what can companies do to make sure their spaces support neurodiversity? The good news is that measures that support neurodiversity very often can help create a better experience for everybody. 

An open office with workstations next to a wall with colorful acoustic panels.Acoustic Controls

In a survey of neurodiverse workers conducted by Tarkett and HOK, 77% of respondents said they were hypersensitive to noise in the workplace. High levels of noise has long been a common workplace complaint, so measures like installing acoustic panels and carpeting will be helpful in keeping noise under control to create a more comfortable environment for everybody. But there are some other factors which can affect neurodiverse workers more than others. For example, having workstations near a cafe area or break room may not bother some people, but the extra noise at certain points of the day could become too much for a neurodiverse person.

A secluded office space for people to collaborate in with a monitor on the wall.Visual Distractions

Visual distractions are another very common issue for neurodiverse workers, with 62% of respondents to the Tarkett/HOK survey reporting being hypersensitive to visual distractions like movement. Desk panels, cubicle walls, portable partitions, privacy pods, and lounge furniture with tall backs are all great ways to help people block out distractions caused by other people moving around in the office. 

Neurodivergent people may also be sensitive to colors and patterns. Things like high contrast colors and bold patterns can potentially be overwhelming to neurodivergent workers, so it’s best to be careful with anything that might cause sensory overload.

Office cafe setting that features windows with shades and artificial overhead lighting.Lighting Controls

Ideal lighting is something that can vary from person to person, but neurodivergent workers can be particularly sensitive to bright lights. Things like window blinds, adjustable shades, and lighting systems that can be controlled by employees can help everyone make sure their work environment helps them be both comfortable and productive. 

Informal collaborative space in an office with seating with tall backs.Flexibility

When people have varying needs from their workplace, flexible environments are a great way to let people work in spaces that best suit their needs. For example, people might do well working at their workstation for some tasks, but need a space that offers more privacy for others and having the ability to move from their desk to someplace like a privacy pod or a semi-private lounge is a great way to make people feel more supported and engaged at work. 

Need help designing a space that better meets the needs of your employees? Contact Premier Construction & Design. Premier has experience creating workplaces for companies in a wide range of industries in the metro Detroit area. Take a look at our portfolio to see examples of projects we’ve worked on. When you’re ready to get started, contact us so that we can learn more about your project.