Neurodiversity at Work, written by Theo Smith and Amanda Kirby, aims to highlight how organisations can improve business outcomes, employee satisfaction and brand impact by recruiting, supporting, and valuing neurodiversity in the workplace.
The book follows the biopsychosocial or social model of disability, advising against the medical model and its language. Paraphrasing from the introduction:
‘Neurodiversity is not a disability – it is the constructs and constraints of our educational system… built environments and the fabrications, processes and leadership styles of our businesses that confine the 20% of the working population whose brains engage and respond differently.’
The book positions the importance of neuroinclusivity in terms of its business sense:
- Ethical, moral, and legal responsibilities
- Attracting, optimising, and maintaining talent
- Dispelling the myth that adjustments are costly, citing the average cost of reasonable adjustments is £75 per person
- Creating novel solutions
- Good for customer relations
As well as its contribution to the wider UN sustainable development goals:
- Goal 3 – healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all
- Goal 5 – gender equality
- Goal 8 – sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth
- Goal 10 – reduce inequalities
The book is divided into sixteen chapters, that are targeted to different elements of the journey to work. Do not be tempted to move directly to the sections on policies and procedures or workplace adjustments. It’s chapters on labels – and what they mean, categories and spiky profiles, and eliminating kryptonite and enabling superheroes, contextualise a language and approach that followed in the remainder of the book.
Although it may feel that some chapters are perhaps of more direct value to human resource professionals, each provides more than enough translatable concepts for OSH practitioners. It provides an insight into the debates underway within employment on neuroinclusivity. It provides a baseline understanding of neurodiversity that will support us in providing valuable advice in relation to workplace adjustments, and in any staff management functions we undertake.
Every chapter concludes with a summary/notes section and suggests further reading. There are numerous case studies and interviews with people with a range of cognitive variabilities to contextualise the messages.
The book is engaging and easy to read – its use of diagrams, quotes and case studies is particularly engaging. Whilst the book itself acknowledges that language and descriptors of neurodiverse conditions will change over time, the appendix and glossary are helpful and will ensure that this book is revisited.
Throughout the book there are examples of 'workplace adjustments' that would benefit everyone at work, not only those with cognitive differences. I particularly found the chapter on future workspaces and workplaces thought provoking.
The greatest ‘take home’ messages this reader was left with were that with 20% of the working population having a brain that engages and responds differently, how can we as a profession, ensure that the guidance and advice we provide is relevant and inclusive.
This book was reviewed by IOSH magazine's book club review team
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