SPECIALISTERNE NETWORK

International Specialisterne Community

Specialisterne Canada

Specialisterne Canada Inc., a charitable not-for-profit Canadian organization, focused on building a bridge between neurodivergent job seekers and employers. We support employers to tap into the talents of a neurodiverse workforce and build inclusive organizations through education, training, and advisory.

Specialisterne Foundation

Specialisterne Foundation is a non-for-profit organization that works to enable one million jobs for people with autism and similar challenges.

When solving pressing issues like the workplace mental health crisis or addressing the lack of neuro-inclusion, our instinct is often to add more initiatives, events, or programs. And yet, adding activities and events, or even the thought of adding programs to already overpacked schedules and to-do lists, can be overwhelming – and we may end up doing nothing.

However, an alternative approach suggests that doing less—while focusing on simplicity and essential support—can be more effective. Both mental health support and making work more accessible for neurodivergent employees can be achieved by doing less.

The secret to doing less but achieving more is: intentionality. When this principle is applied to workspace activities and processes, both employees and managers can accomplish more with less stress, work becomes more neuro-inclusive, and everyone’s mental health is likely to benefit.

Here are just a few ways in which this principle can be applied.

1. Streamline Regular Meetings

Productive meetings are necessary for organizational life. However, in many organizations, they are too long, occur too frequently, and some might be completely unnecessary. Excessive meetings can be a source of stress and distraction, particularly for neurodivergent people who might struggle with prolonged social gatherings or need significant stretches of uninterrupted time to focus. Meetings can also provoke anxiety or feel extremely draining for those with depression. Here is how managers can improve the meeting culture:

    • Quality over Quantity: Reduce the frequency and duration of meetings. Schedule them only when necessary and keep them concise. Focus on the quality of interactions and decision-making; routine updates can be provided in writing and asynchronously.
    • Clear Agendas and Follow-ups: Provide a clear agenda before each meeting and a concise summary afterwards, highlighting key decisions and actions required.
    • Asynchronous Alternatives: Provide alternative engagement opportunities via digital workspaces, message boards, etc.

2. Reduce Multitasking

While in some environments, such as a busy emergency room, multitasking can be a part of the job, in most occupational settings it is more likely to reflect a lack of planning and task prioritization. Generally, multitasking has significant productivity costs, is stressful, and can tax executive function. Multitasking can be particularly challenging for those neurodivergent individuals who excel in concentrating on single projects, but no one is immune from the stress of multitasking.

To reduce multitasking and its effects on productivity and stress, managers can implement several strategies:

    • Clear Prioritization: Managers should define clear priorities for teams and individuals. By establishing a hierarchy of tasks, they can help employees focus on completing one activity at a time, enhancing concentration and reducing the need to multitask. Advanced planning and prioritization also reduce the need for managerial intervention to address employee confusion, overwhelm, and mistakes that occur when priorities are not clear, and everything is treated as  “urgent.”
    • Task Batching: Encourage the practice of task batching – grouping similar tasks to be performed consecutively (e.g., responding to several emails). This minimizes the cognitive load of frequent switching and allows for deeper focus.
    • Block Schedules: Implement structured schedules that allocate specific times for certain types of work. For example, setting aside dedicated times for emails or meetings, as well as for deep work, can help employees focus on projects without frequent interruptions.
    • Setting Expectations for Responsiveness: Redefine what “immediate response” means within the organization. Not all emails or messages require instant replies; setting expectations for when to respond can reduce the pressure to multitask – for everyone.
    • Use of Technology: Utilize project management tools to help organize tasks more efficiently and visibly. These tools can aid in tracking progress and deadlines, making it easier for employees to manage their workload without feeling the need to multitask. Such systems also allow managers to track progress without constant check-ins, freeing time for deeper work.

3. Reduce Bureaucracy

Reducing bureaucracy is an effective way to decrease stress and enhance transparency. Simplifying complex processes and minimizing red tape can support a more neuro-inclusive work environment. Here’s how to achieve this:

    • Simplified Processes: Conduct regular reviews of workflows and approval chains to identify and eliminate redundant steps. This simplification helps make procedures less cumbersome and more accessible, particularly benefiting neurodivergent employees who may find overly complicated processes stressful, illogical, or stifling their creativity. It may also reduce anxiety and support employees dealing with energy-draining conditions, such as depression or Long Covid. Clearer, streamlined processes are likely to improve both efficiency and job satisfaction.
    • Autonomy in Decision-Making: Empowering employees by delegating decision-making authority appropriate to their roles and expertise can significantly reduce bureaucratic delays. This empowerment also aids in building employees’ confidence and sense of ownership over their work, supporting a feeling of control and reducing stress levels.
    • Transparent Processes: Ensure that all process changes and their rationales are communicated clearly and openly to all employees. Transparency in how decisions are made and why certain processes are in place helps employees understand their roles and contributions more deeply, aligning their efforts with organizational goals.

Making processes more transparent and less cumbersome reduces bureaucracy and stress; it also promotes a culture of inclusion.

Conclusion

The Canary Code book cover - A Guide to Neurodiversity, Dignity, and Intersectional Belonging at WorkImproving work environments does not have to mean adding more activities. Managers can create more inclusive and supportive work climates by doing less while focusing on what truly matters and simplifying wherever possible. This approach benefits neurodivergent employees and enhances the well-being of all. My book, The Canary Code: A Guide to Neurodiversity, Dignity, and Intersectional Belonging at Work, provides many more neuro-inclusion strategies that benefit all employees and strengthen organizations.