ResearchResearch shows 1 in 5 neurodiverse people decline jobs due to poor workplace design

Design of the built environment is having a bigger impact on neurodiverse employees than previously thought, research finds.
Content Team6 months ago7 min

ADHD Awareness Month shines a spotlight on the challenges faced by neurodivergent individuals in the workplace, particularly in the context of returning to physical office spaces. Recent research conducted by Motionspot, an inclusive design business, has uncovered a concerning trend: businesses are losing valuable neurodivergent talent due to the design of their office environments.

Motionspot, an inclusive design business that commissioned the survey, asked 1,000 neurodivergent office workers and 1,000 neurotypical office workers about the key issues they faced working in offices. Neurodivergence is a term used to describe a range of neurological differences including (but not limited to): ADHD, autism, Tourette’s syndrome, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and dyscalculia.

Research findings

Given that 78% of neurodivergent employees report spending three or more days per week at the office (18% higher than neurotypical colleagues), the research has highlighted the need for employers to consider whether the work environment caters to a diverse workforce. To support neurodivergent employees, companies need to review the design of their offices and consider how to support employees with diverse needs and conditions.

In the survey, the biggest challenges neurodivergent respondents face in the office are:

  • Frequent distractions (35%)
  • Anxiety in social situations (35%)
  • Fatigue and burnout (34%)
  • Brain fog (32%)
  • Sensory overload (31%)

Research from Harvard Business Review states that organisations that actively promote inclusivity generate 19% more revenue. Yet Motionspot’s research shows that 22% of neurodivergent applicants reported not accepting a job that was otherwise suitable due to the design of the physical workplace environment.

Notably, 15% of neurodivergent respondents stated they had left a job due to the design of the physical workplace environment.

Rebecca C, diagnosed with ADHD and currently employed at a leading UK university shares her experience living and working with ADHD. She said: “At my previous workplace, the office wasn’t suitable, and I had to work in an environment that negatively affected my ability to focus and concentrate on tasks.

“My current workplace allows me to thrive as it is designed for diversity and choice. Bookable private desk spaces, quieter doors, and less harsh lighting, allows me to be my best at work.”

Finding solutions for better workplace design

The survey revealed the need for a choice of workspaces to suit different tasks and sensory needs. 60% of neurodivergent workers stated they prefer to move around different areas of the office during the day dependent on the type of work they are doing. Other features that neurodivergent respondents benefit from include:

  • Private rooms or ‘nooks’ around the office to carry out private tasks (82%)
  • Informal rooms with soft furniture for creative collaboration (70%)
  • A private and quiet space to lie down and rest in the workplace (64%)
  • Spaces designed with an informal ‘café style’ atmosphere (52%)
  • A private sensory room with soft furniture, adjustable lighting, ambient sounds, and video projections (14%)

Jason Slocombe, Neurodiversity Design Specialist at Motionspot said: “One of the most important statistics in this research, is the number of neurodivergent people who have either left a job or declined a job offer because of the physical design of the workplace. We know from previous research that workplace design has a significant impact on employee experience, but what we were not aware of was how the built environment and the current talent shortage employers are experiencing seem to be related.”

Ed Warner, CEO and Founder of Motionspot said: “The most successful businesses will be the ones that recognise the unique strengths, creativity and innovative thinking of neurodivergent staff and design their workplaces to enable all staff to thrive at work.”

You can read the full Motionspot report, How businesses can stop losing talented workers with ADHD, here.

Content Team

Work in Mind is a content platform designed to give a voice to thinkers, businesses, journalists and regulatory bodies in the field of healthy buildings.

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