On Earth Day, I attended a virtual sustainability conference, hosted by Material Bank and instructed by Mary Kate Cassidy from HOK.
During this educational seminar, Mary Kate discussed designing spaces for Inclusivity and supporting Neurodiversity in the workplace. “Neurodiversity” refers to people that are not neurotypical and includes people with diagnosed disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Dyslexia as well as Depression and Anxiety. With an increasing number of people on the neurodivergent spectrum, employers must support neurodiversity to have a competitive advantage (HOK 2, 2019).
Cassidy highlighted various strategies to support the hypersensitive and hyposensitive (a small reaction to sensory input) workers that require different levels of stimuli to work efficiently and safely.
The best takeaway of the session was to consider these seven things when designing an inclusive workplace:
(1) Choice: Create a space that enables personal choice so that people can manage their needs with dignity and autonomy (HOK 6, 2019).
(2) Control: Design with personal controls to ensure comfort and belonging in the workplace. This includes control over the level of stimuli in the space such as social interaction, noise, movement, and lighting (HOK 9, 2019).
(3) Quiet: A workplace design that manages acoustics effectively, balances auditory stimuli, and includes quiet spaces. With technology overwhelming the workplace from phone calls and impromptu meetings, it’s important to create zones of quiet and allow for some ambient background noise so that everyone can find the best place to work.
(4) Movement: Design to allow for movement throughout the day or in a designated zone with chairs for bouncing or balancing. (HOK 14, 2019).
(5) Daylight: Access to daylight is essential for a healthy work environment, but we must design with operable window coverings and space plan to avoid glare. Designers must create spaces that are not over-lit and include adjustable, layered lighting (HOK 16, 2019).
(6) Adjustments: Individual adjustments allow people to feel more comfortable while working and prevents them from getting stuck in a daily routine (HOK 18, 2019). This includes adjustments to the environment and to one’s working style.
(7) Zoning: Spatial organization, or zoning of a space, should be intuitive but also exciting. The space should be clear to navigate to feel secure, but provide interest with focal points and meaningful variation in micro-environments (HOK 7, 13, 2019).
If you are interested in creating a more inclusive work environment for your employees, get started by scheduling a Discovery Consultation with our professional interior designers.
The information in this blog is supported by HOK’s research division, which can be found here: https://www.hok.com/ideas/publications/hok-designing-a-neurodiverse-workplace.