Let me introduce you to Sarah, she has recently finished university and started working for a large retail bank in the UK as an account manager. She is responsible for developing clients for the bank by introducing them to the bank’s products and helping them understand how these products can make their businesses work better. Sarah’s role involves a large quantity of proposal writing in addition to producing other written materials.
Sarah was diagnosed with dyslexia at school and as a result, had some help so that she could study effectively and pass her qualifications. This help continued through university but since leaving university she has been able to cope without any help.
Unfortunately, in Sarah’s current role things started to get a little bit difficult as she is struggling with spelling and punctuation in addition to remembering all the tasks and actions that she is given by her boss and team daily. Fortunately, when these issues were flagged to Sarah’s HR department, they immediately recognised it would be appropriate to ask Sarah what was going on. As a result, Sarah shared some of the things that she was finding difficult so the company initiated a workplace needs assessment.
A workplace needs assessment
An assessment that should be carried out by a qualified workplace needs assessor who looks at an individual’s workplace, role, job description and tasks. Then working with the individual makes suggestions for what is called reasonable adjustments.
These are adjustments that can be made in the workplace to help people who have difficulties completing their everyday tasks. As an employer there is an obligation to provide these if you know, or could be expected to know, an employee or job applicant has a disability.
For Sarah to have this assessment she did not need to have a formal diagnosis she just needed to recognise that something was not working for her in her workplace. This assessment helped Sarah understand some of the difficulties she was facing. It also helped her understand some of the strengths that she offered to her workplace.
A vital part of the workplace needs assessment is to amplify strengths and manage the difficulties of the individual.
Sarah’s employer had a legal responsibility under the Equality Act 2010 as Sarah is a neurodivergent individual who has a substantial and long-term condition that is covered under the act because of the following wording:
You are disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.
This is important as Sarah’s workplace needs assessment suggested a large range of different technologies along with some workplace coaching. In Sarah’s case however several of the pieces of technology that were suggested did not work with the systems used by her employer. This resulted in a large amount of stress and anxiety for Sarah as she felt it was her responsibility to make IT work. Sarah’s manager tried to support her in this implementation but unfortunately was unable to make any headway in a reasonable time. In Sarah’s situation, the stress and anxiety got to a point where she was unable to continue working and had a prolonged period signed off sick from work.
I would like to make it clear Sarah’s is not an isolated case, implementation of help can cause even more stress and anxiety sometimes making the issues an individual faces far worse.
This unfortunate situation illustrates the need for a joined-up approach to reasonable adjustments within the workplace. It is vital when technology solutions are suggested to help individuals with some of the difficulties, they experience that they work with the existing organisation IT infrastructure and policies. In Sarah’s particular case this situation could have been remedied very easily by having an IT representative involved in the process to ensure the technology suggested would work with the existing infrastructure. This is unfortunately overlooked in many situations causing a large amount of stress and anxiety for the individuals involved who are asking for help.
The final component here is awareness within the organisation of the impact change has on individuals with neurodivergent conditions. What is often not recognised is that any change can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. To help alleviate some of this it’s really important that everyone within the organisation has an appreciation of what neurodiversity is and how it can impact their colleagues.
Some ways to help avoid this situation include:
- Creating a list of approved applications that IT are happy with will work within the organisation’s infrastructure and fit within the organisation’s policies.
- Making sure supervisors/managers are spoken to as part of the assessment process.
- Having a dedicated IT contact who can support the implementation of assistive technology.
- Ensuring that all members of the organisation have attended neurodiversity awareness training and are aware of who to speak for support.
If you would like to know more about workplace needs assessments and how to implement them effectively within your organisation, please get in contact.