A new survey has identified key sensory issues in office environments and how they can be addressed through workplace design and strategy.
In one of the first surveys of its kind, flooring manufacturer Tarkett and design firm HOK asked neurodiverse individuals in the UK, US and Canada to share how their work environments could better cater to their jobs and personal needs. Genius Within, an organisation dedicated to helping neuro-minorities maximise their potential, provided advisory services as the Tarkett and HOK team built on in-depth research. The research includes insights by HOK and the commercial interiors colour specification guide developed by Tarkett to advise businesses on how to cater for inclusive design.
Neurodiversity refers to variations in human neurocognitive functioning – the different ways we think, process information, and relate to others. One in seven people worldwide are estimated to have a neurodiverse condition such as ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia and Tourette’s syndrome.
The survey collected feedback from 202 neurodiverse individuals, with a focus on women and workers older than 30, two groups that have been largely underrepresented in other studies on neurodiversity. The survey found several challenges these individuals face when it comes to workplaces. A few of those include:
- 77 per cent of respondents reported being hypersensitive to noise and sound in the workplace
- 62 per cent of respondents were hypersensitive to visual distractions (movement, colour, light) in the office
- Women reported greater overall sensory sensitivity challenges in the workplace compared to men, particularly when it came to temperature and light (62 per cent and 59 per cent compared to 46 per cent and 44 per cent, respectively).
Insights from the survey can help workplace designers and product manufacturers create spaces that are more supportive and inclusive for neurodiverse employees.
Survey respondents specifically identified the following workplace strategy and design solutions employers could consider:
- Offer training and education about neurodiversity to all staff
- Offer all employees (neurodiverse and neurotypical) a variety of workplace choices, from open office environments to private, to address various sensory stimulations
- Provide spaces that support and encourage physical movement and access to natural light
- Create flexible work policies that give people autonomy over their schedule and work environment, including work-from-home opportunities when feasible
Kay Sargent, Director of Workplace for HOK, commented: “One size, or solution, misfits all. This latest study continues to show that, to allow all employees to thrive, office designs need to remain fluid and adaptable. Employers can improve employee wellness and productivity by offering a wide range of choices, allowing people to continually select the best space for their individual needs and the task at hand.”
While the pandemic has normalised hybrid work and encouraged a wider conversation around employee wellbeing, the Tarkett and HOK survey suggests opportunities still exist for organisations to do more to support their employees.
Leslie Thompson, Director of Workplace for Tarkett North America commented: “Neurodiverse employees bring valuable diversity of thought and competitive advantage to their organisations. Optimising the work environment to support each individual isn’t just the right thing to do for our people; it’s simply good business.”
A report of the survey findings is available for download here.
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