Have you ever wondered what a reasonable adjustment is?
Here are six recent examples from The Neurodivergent Coach’s work. To protect identities, names were changed.
1. Dealing with overwhelm – reasonable adjustment
Alex was utterly overwhelmed. His main complaint was that he was overwhelmed daily, with too much to do and no idea where to start.
Working with Alex revealed that he required regular breaks in his routine to reset as he learned to manage his energy levels and began to approach tasks confidently. This developed into how he managed his calendar, scheduling extra time at the end of meetings to recharge and making this time non-negotiable. This allowed him to fully reset and be his best, most present self, especially when feeling overwhelmed.
2. Fogettory – reasonable adjustment
The most common trait I hear when assessing neurodivergent individuals is their struggle with short-term memory.
I recently worked with Paula, who had an influential job at a UK university. Her role involved interacting with different people and producing detailed reports on academic papers. Paula explained that she often forgot what was on one screen when she flicked to another. Paula had been working on her laptop for extended periods and found it frustrating and exhausting to remember what was on the previous screen. For Paula, the solution was to increase the number of available screens. She started with one extra screen and then rapidly grew to two, meaning she could lay out all the information she was working on simultaneously without printing it. She could highlight and reword areas without fear of losing where she was.
Screen real estate matters!
3. Meetings, meetings, meetings
John described how he spent most of his time in meetings and often came away stressed, frustrated and unable to see how he had contributed well to the meeting.
Working with John, it became clear that it was not John’s issue. The problem was in the structure of the meetings in which he was being asked to participate.
Often these meetings were ad hoc without a clear agenda, and from John’s perspective, he didn’t understand why he was there. Working with John and his line manager, we created a new process where the organisation implemented structured meetings that included an agenda and a clear indication of what was expected of everyone who attended.
This helped John feel confident about why he was there and what he would be expected to do. Interestingly, fewer meetings took place as an additional benefit, and fewer people were involved because the meeting organisers were forced to take a long hard look at who needed to be there and why.
This example highlights why neuroinclusive workplaces are better for everyone.
4. No place like home
Alice hated doing detailed work in the office as too many distractions took her away from the task she had to do. This ultimately meant she was not present when she needed to be with her work. This was compounded by the expectation that she should be sociable in the office.
Working with Alice quickly revealed that she required a dedicated space to complete her work when she needed to concentrate. She also needed to know what was expected of her when she went into the office so that she could prepare to interact with colleagues and participate more actively. This looked like agreeing to three days working at home and two days in the office with the flexibility to change based on business requirements.
We discussed with her manager what the expectations were when she was in the office, as there were a lot of unwritten rules about the company culture. It was agreed that Alice would arrange to catch up with two colleagues when she came into the office. These meetings could be set up in advance with a clear outline of what they would discuss. In Alice’s case, it gave her a natural springboard to be her best at work.
Rules of engagement are essential!
5. Open plan is sometimes like having no walls on your toilet
Adrian worked in an open plan office as part of a large county council. His work was quite often sensitive, and Adrian often used dictation as part of his work. He also experienced distractions from people moving around and from conversations in the office. Adrian described being in an open-plan office as “going to the toilet and there being no walls”. He felt unable to be his most effective.
The adjustments for Adrian included working part of his week at home, and when he was in the office, there would be a space available where he could work quietly — enabling Adrian to do his best work.
Open-plan offices have their place, but if you’re easily distracted or need to undertake sensitive work and use tools like Dragon Dictate, they can be an incredibly noisy and unpleasant place to work for neurodivergent individuals.
6. Changing the communication channel – reasonable adjustment
Sarah worked in a busy publishing house where she was in charge of a large team. Because of the high turnover of staff and the complexity and types of projects, she had to interact with her large team regularly, helping them understand what to do next.
Often a request would come in over Messenger, which would end up as a lengthy conversation where the other party still didn’t understand what to do. Sarah recognised that many of these conversations would be better over video or face-to-face. However, the organisation’s culture didn’t seem to make this accessible. Sarah’s adjustment was to clarify what questions needed a video or face-to-face conversation. Then to give herself and her team permission to communicate clearly that they needed to have a physical meeting instead of chatting over Messenger. They could switch back to another channel if a conversation wasn’t necessary.
Changing channels with permission was crucial to ensuring they understood their tasks and improved communication.
These are some of the recent reasonable adjustments I’ve seen through my work. I’ve not mentioned specific conditions because cooccurrence is the rule rather than the exception, meaning that someone with ADHD has a high probability of having autistic or dyslexic traits. It doesn’t matter what your diagnosis is because each individual is different, and everyone will need a different adjustment depending on their strengths and difficulties. This can only be achieved through conversation, trust and willingness to learn and grow from the individual and the organisation.
If you want to know more about how to support your people in your workplace, drop me a line.
If you are wondering were to start, a good place can be a Workplace Needs Assessment.