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Ending 2022 with Neurodiversity Research at Work. Update and Events

Catch up on the latest news from Birkbeck's Centre for Neurodiversity Research at Work.

Accessible Summary

We have a new project of research, collaborating with the Neurodiversity in Business Charity. It involves a very large survey to understand what type of industries are providing what type of support for neurodivergent people. We want to understand what type of practice is out there and what difference it makes. We also want to understand if your gender or race makes any difference to the support that is out there. If it does, we can provide clear advice to employers to make changes here.

Please help us by filling in the survey and sharing it.

We’ve completed the following research this year:

  1. A paper looking at how where you work affects how you work. We found that being able to adjust for noise and light at work was very helpful. Employees who could do that stayed in their jobs longer, worked better and felt better.
  2. An Autism at Work survey. These results showed that women, transgender and non-binary people, Black and Asian Autistic people were less likely to have work. They were less likely to have Autism hiring jobs. They were also more likely to feel like they had to “mask” at work. Masking means that you pretend to be like everyone else, even though that is hard.
  3. We’ve analysed diversity and inclusion initiatives in race, gender, sexuality, age and disability. We’ve identified which initiatives make the most difference. We have submitted our paper to a journal to see whether they agree with us. We will provide an update next time.
  4. We compared the difference in coaching success for neurodivergent people who had their coaching before, during and after the pandemic. We found that they all improved in their work performance. It didn’t matter if the coaching was in person or remote. Fewer people needed time management support during lockdown.
  5. We published a review of which initiatives work best in ADHD support. People who support the ADHD person were found to be the most important influence.

We’ve also attended conferences and worked collaboratively abroad:

  1. Almuth and several of our neurodivergent PhD students went to a European Work Psychology conference to talk about our work. Ben’s work on recruitment barriers was well received. He wrote a summary for us, which is on the C4NDRAW website.
  2. Nancy went to Poland to give a talk to new students starting a Neurodiversity course.
  3. Nancy was also part of a symposium presentation at the Academy of Management Conference.

We have a new PhD student, Aishwarya Srinivasan. Welcome Aishwarya!

We are working on more projects at the moment. The C4NDRAW website now has more summaries of our research and some videos.

Detailed Newsletter

New Research afoot!

  • We are collaborating with the Neurodiversity in Business Charity to understand the scope of current practice in a wide sample of businesses and industries. The idea is to understand the “state of the sector” as a benchmark against which we can evaluate progress. There’s also evidence to suggest that some industries are more advanced than others on neurodiversity inclusion. This might be making other areas of diversity and inclusion worse if we are only focused on privilege and well-resourced industries which tend to hire white males. Nancy’s Forbes column explored this last month. We’d really like people to help us generate a lot of responses to this survey, so please fill it in if you can and please also share widely. It will stay open until we have a representative sample.

Update on our existing research

  • Environmental Influences on Neurodivergent people at work
    • We finished a paper with a colleague from Switzerland, Dr Clara Weber. Here’s a link to an accessible you tube video explaining the results. Being able to adjust sound and light intensity predicted how long people stayed in their jobs, their wellbeing and their productivity. This is a great result as it provides object evidence for what many of us have asked for as a reasonable adjustment. Here’s a link to the full article. It will be really helpful for those of you working in policy, or in providing adjustments.
  • Autism At Work
    • Finally! Our research is published in the Autism in Adulthood journal. Hurrah! Those of you not in academia might be shocked at how long this took – twenty months from submitting an ethics application to publication. This is actually fairly fast for academia; there are a lot of quality checks in the process to ensure that the work is not biased or unethical. We’re so used to instant Twitter polls as a source of “data” that we forget the need to carefully consider the questions you are asking, formulate a hypothesis and ensure your sample is representative. This takes time, diligence and rigor.
    • The analysis of our data showed that Autistic experience at work was influenced by gender, transgender, race and ethnicity. Those with visible marginalised backgrounds experienced lower rates of employment, lower rates of inclusion in Autism hiring programs and lower reported inclusion and belonging at work. Additionally, specific questions about masking showed that those who were marginalised by race and gender were doing more masking; something we know leads to burnout. Therefore, we challenged those in the field of Autism at work, and indeed neurodiversity at work, to start collecting anonymous data on race, gender and transgender in order to avoid compounded adverse impact.
  • The Wider Field of Equity Diversity Inclusion
    • We have completed our analysis of the impact of various diversity and inclusion initiatives and submitted the paper for publication. We don’t want to share too many of the findings until we have been blind peer reviewed, as this is the rigor of academic research! However, something coming through quite clearly is the limitation of training as a force for change. This seems to depend on the type of training and who delivers it but, generally speaking, training is less effective at changing peoples’ behaviour than we might hope- more details here in 2023. We are also putting clear guidance together based on these insights for employers and professionals working on neurodiversity at work.
  • Coaching in a Pandemic
    • In this study, we partnered with Genius Within – a non-profit social enterprise – to understand whether coaching success was affected by the pandemic. We found that it wasn’t and we published an article this summer indicating that coaching was just as likely to produce work improvements before, during and after the pandemic. This is despite most clients transitioning from face-to-face to remote in the click of a switch! The topics changed a bit though, with fewer people needing support with time management during lockdown.
  • Reasonable Adjustments for ADHD at Work
    • One of our neurodivergent doctoral students, Dr Kirsty Lauder, published a paper from her systematic review of the literature of interventions to support ADHD adults at work. Congratulations, Kirsty! She found that ADHD research was dominated by the medical model and that there wasn’t enough evidence in the workplace. She also found that the most important aspect for good outcomes was the support and strength of relationships for the ADHDer.
    • Since graduating, Kirsty has flown off to work in New York with Professor Suzanne Bruyer, which is amazing news and we wish her all the best with her ongoing research.

More research planned

  • Our reasonable adjustments in higher education research is still in analysis.
  • We are still scoping out our emotional and psychological contract work.
  • We are looking at some collaboration across Europe to look at best practice.
  • We have published a lot of chapters this year and more in development, as well as a book!

Conferences and presentations

  • The PhD student team went to the 5th European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology Conference, 6-8 July 2022, University of Bordeaux, France. Ben wrote up a news item on his presentation.
  • Nancy went to Poland to support our Polish colleagues Dr Michal Tomczak and Dr Joanna Szulc. They are collaborating with the Polish charity A/typowi (which means A/typical) in starting the first postgraduate course in Neurodiversity Studies- Nancy gave an inaugural lecture. Nancy was also part of a symposium at the Academy of Management conference in Seattle, with a colleague from our Advisory Board, Dr Valentina Bruk-Lee.

Our research team

  • We have welcomed new doctoral student Aishwarya Srinivasan to the neurodivergent researchers team. Aishwarya is exploring how coaching supports ADHDers in career transitions. Welcome Aishwarya!

Accessible research

  • We have an ongoing mission to ensure that all of the work we do is written up in lay terms for management and ND individuals to read, rather than hidden behind a paywall or psychobabble! We’ve made progress on this in 2022 and have added six new lay summaries to the list of resources on the C4NDRAW website and we would really welcome your feedback.

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