Skip to main content

Guide to Building Neurodiversity in The Workplace: A Thriving Workforce

Vanessa and Nicholas Peat

19 March 2024

For many neurodiverse adults, navigating the world can feel like trying to unlock a complex puzzle with pieces seemingly designed for a different game. While traditional approaches often focus on limitations, a growing body of research reveals a powerful key: nutrition.

By understanding how food choices impact our unique neurochemistry and sensory experiences, we can transform our relationship with food from a constant challenge into a tool for empowerment.

This article embarks on a journey through the exciting realm of neurodiverse nutrition, exploring how mindful food choices can unlock mental clarity, enhance focus, manage sensitivities, and ultimately fuel the remarkable potential within each of us.

Beyond the Diagnosis  

Neurodiversity, encompassing conditions like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia, Tourette Syndrome, and more, paints a broader picture than a single diagnosis suggests. While diagnoses hold value in accessing support, fostering truly inclusive environments requires a deeper understanding.

It is vital to recognise the heterogeneity within diagnoses. Even within a single category, experiences diverge significantly. Individuals with ASD, for instance, exhibit a spectrum of social interaction preferences, sensory sensitivities, and cognitive styles. Focusing solely on the diagnosis risks overlooking this rich tapestry of strengths and needs.

Many neurodivergent individuals navigate life undiagnosed yet possess unique capabilities that enrich workplaces and learning environments. These strengths can include:

  • Focus and Detail-Oriented: Individuals with ADHD can demonstrate an intense ability to focus on topics of interest and meticulous attention to detail – assets in project execution and quality control. 
  • Creative Problem-Solving: Neurodivergent individuals often excel in out-of-the-box thinking, approaching challenges from fresh perspectives and fostering innovation. 
  • Pattern Recognition: Studies suggest some neurodivergent individuals have exceptional pattern recognition skills 3, leading to insightful connections and problem-solving breakthroughs. 

  • Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: While stereotypes portray a lack of empathy, research suggests 4 that a different form might be present—a focus on understanding another's perspective, enriching team dynamics.

Interestingly, a recent study5 looked at how neurodivergent brains work differently (both in how they think and how they're wired) and how they impact groups. The researchers argue that when these differences are seen as a way of having different strengths on a team (horizontal), it leads to more success. But, if the differences are seen as a way of being "better" or "worse" (vertical), it can lead to problems.

By embracing the spectrum of neurodiversity and its associated strengths, we can create truly inclusive environments where everyone thrives. This not only benefits the individual but also fosters a richer and more innovative collective environment.

Neurodiversity training in the workplace

The Neurodiverse Advantage 

Neurodiversity encompasses variations in brain function and thinking styles. While some may perceive these differences as disabilities (protected under the Equality Act 2010), they often translate to unique strengths in the workplace, as mentioned above. However, as an employer, it is vital to understand that The Equality Act 2010 requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate protected characteristics, which may include neurodiversity. This could involve:

  • Flexible work arrangements 
  • Assistive technologies 
  • Clear communication practices 

However, investing in neurodiversity inclusion isn't just about legal obligations. It's about fostering a work environment where everyone can thrive and contribute their best. We’ve already mentioned that over 10% of the working UK population are neurodivergent, but let’s look at a few more statistics.  

Approximately 25% of CEOs are dyslexic 1, yet a significant knowledge gap exists. In today's competitive landscape, attracting and retaining top talent is critical.  Yet, a staggering 64% of employers admit to having a limited understanding of neurodiversity 6. This presents a significant missed opportunity.

Here's why embracing neurodiversity is a strategic investment:

  • Unleashing productivity: Neurodivergent individuals often excel in focus, detail-oriented work, and creative problem-solving. Fostering an inclusive environment allows you to tap into this untapped potential, boosting overall team productivity and innovation. 
  • The talent imperative: Neurodiversity represents a significant portion of the workforce, so failing to create an inclusive environment risks losing valuable talent to competitors who prioritise diversity and inclusion. 
  • Innovation edge: Neurodivergent individuals often bring unique perspectives and approaches to problem-solving. Fostering an environment where these ideas can flourish gives you a significant edge in developing innovative products and services. 
  • Customer connection: Understanding the needs of a diverse customer base is crucial for success. Building a neurodiverse workforce can provide valuable insights and perspectives that can help you better connect with and serve your customers, resulting in increased brand loyalty and revenue.

Investing in neurodiversity inclusion isn't just the right thing to do; it's a smart business decision. As a business, you can partner with UCU to build a neuroinclusive workplace. We'll guide you in creating an environment that unlocks the full potential of your diverse workforce, ensuring everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute their unique talents.

By creating a welcoming space for diverse minds, you unlock a hidden reservoir of talent, innovation, and customer connection. Let's move beyond legal obligations and basic inclusion and leverage neurodiversity as a strategic advantage to drive business success.

Unlocking Potential for a Neuroinclusive Workplace  

Recognising the value of neurodiversity offers a significant talent advantage. Deloitte7 suggests that teams with neurodivergent professionals in some roles can be 30% more productive than those without. A neurodiverse workforce fosters a more inclusive environment, leading to higher team morale and collaboration.

A significant talent gap exists, with only 16% of autistic adults in the UK securing full-time employment, according to the National Autistic Society 8. However, this population has a clear desire for work, with 77% of unemployed autistic individuals expressing a strong interest in employment.

Similar trends are observed for individuals with dyslexia, dyspraxia, and dyscalculia. This highlights a vast, high-potential pool of talent that organisations can unlock by implementing simple accommodations and fostering a more inclusive work environment. By recognising the strengths inherent in neurodiversity, companies can tap into a previously underutilised resource and gain a significant competitive advantage.

However, attracting, retaining, and empowering neurodivergent employees requires a proactive approach. Here are a few practical strategies to consider: 

Building a Culture of Awareness 

Research 9 on diversity training programmes demonstrates the positive impact of fostering knowledge and awareness towards different identity groups. Educating leadership and staff about neurodiversity, its various manifestations, and the unique strengths and challenges associated with each condition is crucial. This fosters empathy and understanding and creates a foundation for building a more inclusive environment. 

Developing a Transparent and Accessible Recruitment Process 

Revisit recruitment materials and practices to ensure they are free from unconscious bias and cater to the needs of neurodivergent individuals. This may involve offering alternative interview formats and providing clear instructions and expectations. For example, traditional phone interviews can disadvantage neurodivergent candidates due to their reliance on non-verbal cues like tone and rhythm. Consider alternative options like video interviews, written assessments, or skills-based evaluations to create a more inclusive screening process that allows all candidates to shine. 

Implementing Targeted Support Systems 

Once hired, providing ongoing support through mentorship programmes, flexible work arrangements, and access to assistive technologies empowers neurodivergent employees to thrive in their roles. The World Economic Forum 10 highlights the success of the German IT company SAP with its "Autism at Work" programme, which was launched in 2013. SAP boasts a remarkable 90% retention rate for autistic employees, attributed to their robust support system, showcasing the potential of neurodiversity initiatives. 

Encouraging Open Communication and Collaboration 

Fostering a culture of open communication and collaboration allows employees to feel comfortable disclosing their neurodiversity and advocating for their individual needs. This can be achieved through regular check-ins, creating safe spaces for open dialogue, and encouraging team-based problem-solving. 

Celebrating Neurodiversity 

Recognising and celebrating the unique contributions and perspectives of neurodivergent individuals sends a powerful message of inclusion and empowers all employees to bring their authentic selves to work. By creating a culture of understanding, organisations can unlock the full potential of a neurodiverse workforce, potentially leading to increased employee engagement, productivity, and innovation, as seen in studies on positive workplace culture 11.

While these practical strategies pave the way for attracting, retaining, and empowering neurodiverse talent, fostering a truly inclusive environment is an ongoing journey. Unlocking their full potential requires a deeper commitment that extends beyond initial efforts. Building a culture of neurodiversity takes time, continuous learning, and perhaps even the help of external experts. However, organisations willing to embark on this journey will be rewarded with a workforce brimming with untapped potential and a significant competitive edge. 

Stress management techniques for neurodivergent individuals

A Strategic Investment in Employee Wellbeing with Uniquely Created U 

Building a neuro-inclusive workplace starts with understanding and empathy. While the discussion above highlights some general challenges and solutions surrounding neurodiversity and wellbeing, addressing specific needs is crucial for creating a truly inclusive environment.

At UCU, we provide Corporate Wellbeing packages which use a holistic approach focusing on mind, nutrition, and movement. Focusing on mind, nutrition, and movement together creates a powerful synergy. When you take care of one aspect, it benefits the others, like a ripple effect. This holistic approach leads to overall wellbeing by improving your physical and mental health. It's not about fads, but about building sustainable habits for a lifetime of health. Our Corporate Wellbeing packages are designed to: 

  • Empower Employers: Demonstrating commitment to employee wellbeing through strategic investment fosters trust and loyalty. 
  • Empower Employees: Uniquely Created U can tailor programmes to meet the size of the group we will deliver to. We address the individual needs of each team member, not just the workforce as a whole. This personalised approach tackles a critical gap in many traditional programmes. We can work with each business to provide the best offering that suits your available budget. 
  • Build a Positive Culture: By valuing and supporting employees' neurodiversity, physical health, and mental health challenges, we cultivate an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and supported. Openness and transparency lead to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and greater employee satisfaction.

When partnering with Uniquely Created U, you gain access to a highly qualified team of professionals, including:

  • Doctors 
  • Nutritionists 
  • Fitness Experts 
  • Clinical Psychologists 
  • Behavioural Change Specialists 
  • Ergonomic Specialists 
  • Occupational Therapists 

However, Uniquely Created U isn't just about expertise; it's about lived experience too. Our co-founders themselves are neurodivergent, bringing a unique perspective and a deep understanding of the challenges and strengths inherent in neurodiversity.

Dr Nicholas Peat – a Registered GP and expert in Clinical Medicine with specialisms in Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine – was only diagnosed in recent years with Asperger's syndrome. Embracing his diagnosis, Nicholas now advocates for neurodiversity and celebrates his individuality, drawing on his experiences and striving to empower others like him.

Vanessa Peat - a Performance Nutritionist, Registered Associate Nutritionist and Personal Trainer, with a specialism in neurodiversity and nutrition - has a lived experience of overcoming disordered eating which she experienced in her teens, as well as learning disabilities which were diagnosed in early adulthood in academia; dyslexia, dyspraxia, and visual stress. Vanessa advocates for understanding and support for neurodivergent individuals facing similar challenges, particularly in navigating healthy eating habits.

This firsthand knowledge, along with our professional expertise, fuels our passion for creating inclusive workplaces. We don't just advise; we translate our experiences into practical solutions that empower your organisation to embrace neurodiversity and unlock the full potential of your workforce.

As experts in neurodiversity, we focus on five key areas to support your business in meeting the diverse needs of neurodivergent employees.

1. Mental Health & Stress in Neurodiversity 

Studies suggest12 a higher prevalence of mental health challenges among neurodivergent individuals. Common concerns include anxiety, depression, and social isolation. These challenges can be exacerbated by workplace stress.

Evidence-based solutions that we cover to help reduce workplace stress and support people who are neurodivergent to look after their mental health are:

  • Mindfulness and Meditation Programmes: Studies show 13 mindfulness and meditation practices can effectively reduce stress and anxiety. Offering workshops or training programmes in these areas can equip employees with tools to manage their mental wellbeing. 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a well-established therapy approach that has proven effective in treating anxiety and depression 14 
  • Mentorship Programmes: Pairing neurodivergent employees with mentors who understand their needs can provide valuable support and guidance. Mentors can help them navigate workplace challenges, develop coping mechanisms for stress, and foster a sense of belonging. 
  • Open Communication Culture: It is crucial to encourage open communication about mental health challenges. By creating a safe space for employees to discuss their struggles, organisations can ensure they receive appropriate support and prevent mental health issues from escalating.

These evidence-based strategies can significantly improve the mental wellbeing of neurodivergent employees, leading to increased engagement, productivity, and overall job satisfaction. 

Neurodiversity and nutrition guidance

2. Neurodiversity and Nutrition 

Dietary needs and preferences can vary among neurodivergent individuals. Some people may have sensitivities to certain foods or textures, while others may struggle with maintaining regular eating patterns or eating in certain environments. This can lead to difficulties with focus, energy levels, and overall wellbeing.

Supporting neurodiverse people with nutrition can significantly benefit workplaces. Properly addressing dietary needs can:

  • Boost Focus & Energy: The right foods can enhance focus and concentration, leading to increased productivity. 
  • Reduce Stress & Anxiety: Dietary strategies can contribute to lower stress and anxiety levels, common challenges for neurodivergent employees.
  • Improve Wellbeing & Mood: Good nutrition fosters overall wellbeing, leading to higher engagement and potentially lower absenteeism. 
  • Empower & Motivate: Making informed food choices builds confidence and a sense of control, boosting employee motivation. 
  • Facilitate Social Interaction: Inclusive food policies can create a more comfortable environment for eating, promoting social interaction and team bonding.

UCU guidance and solutions will focus on:

  • How to promote healthy eating habits: Resources to empower neurodivergent employees to make informed nutritional choices that support their individual needs. 
  • Accommodating sensory issues: This might involve creating quiet eating spaces, offering flexible break times, and providing a variety of food options. 
  • Being mindful of dietary restrictions: This may involve consulting with our registered dietician and offering a wider range of healthy food options in the workplace. 
  • Developing inclusive food policies: Which are inclusive and supportive of all employees, regardless of their neurodiversity.

By addressing these nutritional needs, UCU helps create a workplace that empowers all employees to thrive. 

3. Ergonomics and Sensory Needs 

Neurodivergent individuals may have specific sensory sensitivities to noise, light, or temperature. Traditional office environments can be overwhelming and hinder productivity.

There are several compelling reasons why businesses should address the ergonomic and sensory needs of neurodivergent individuals: 

Enhanced Productivity and Performance 

Traditional office environments can be overwhelming for neurodivergent individuals with sensory sensitivities. Addressing these needs by offering ergonomic furniture, flexible work arrangements, and minimising distractions can significantly improve focus, concentration, and overall productivity. 

Reduced Stress and Improved Wellbeing 

Sensory overload and a poorly designed workspace can contribute to stress and anxiety in neurodivergent individuals. By creating a more comfortable and accommodating environment, you can foster better mental wellbeing, leading to increased employee satisfaction and reduced absenteeism.

Increased Innovation and Creativity 

Neurodivergent individuals often possess exceptional strengths in areas like problem-solving and creative thinking. By creating a workplace that caters to their needs, you can unlock this untapped potential and foster a more innovative and creative workforce.

By investing in ergonomic and sensory solutions, businesses can create a win-win situation. You can improve employee wellbeing, boost productivity, and gain a competitive edge by attracting and retaining top neurodiverse talent. 

Sensory elements for neurodiverse individuals

4. Social Challenges and Workplace Retention 

Social interactions can be challenging for many neurodivergent individuals.  This can make them feel isolated and lead to higher turnover rates.

UCU can help you implement strategies to support your neurodiverse workforce, including:

  • Discussing social events: Cater to shared interests, not large gatherings. 
  • Providing neurodiversity training: Foster understanding and acceptance. 
  • Building mentorship programmes: Provide social connections and support. 
  • Fostering open communication: Create a safe space for discussing needs. 
  • Implementing flexible work options: Allow for managing social anxieties and optimising productivity.

Addressing these aspects can help reduce social challenges for neurodivergent employees, retain top talent in the business, boost innovation, and create a thriving workplace culture. 

5. Creating a Neuroinclusive Environment 

Implementing a neuro-inclusive workplace requires a commitment from leadership and ongoing efforts. Here are some additional strategies that UCU can delve into:

  • Clear communication: Clear communication is crucial for a neuro-inclusive environment. It minimises misunderstandings, boosts confidence, and reduces stress for neurodivergent individuals. Using plain language, visuals, and alternative communication methods ensures everyone has equal access to information and feels empowered to participate. 
  • Minimising distractions: Many neurodivergent individuals struggle with sensory overload, which can make it difficult to focus and complete tasks. Reducing clutter, noise, and unnecessary interruptions can help them optimise their productivity and wellbeing.  
  • Flexible working styles: Offering flexible work arrangements and deadlines benefits everyone, but especially neurodivergent individuals. Traditional schedules and deadlines can be stressful and hinder productivity for those who may need breaks throughout the day or prefer to work during non-traditional hours. Flexibility empowers them to work when they're most focused, ultimately leading to increased engagement and better quality work. 
  • Predictability and routine: Offering predictability empowers people who are neurodiverse to manage their workload and environment, while clear expectations and consistent routines provide essential structure. This balance fosters focus, reduces stress, and unlocks the full potential of a diverse workforce. 
  • Positive reinforcement: Recognising the unique strengths and contributions of neurodivergent employees goes beyond fairness. Positive reinforcement fosters a sense of belonging and motivates them to excel. This fuels engagement and innovation and ultimately benefits the entire organisation.

Invest in Your People, Unleash Their Potential: The UCU Advantage 

At UCU, we recognise the transformative power of a neuro-inclusive workplace. Our team of highly qualified professionals—doctors, nutritionists, clinical psychologists, behavioral change specialists, ergonomic specialists, occupational therapists, and fitness experts—is dedicated to fostering a holistic approach to employee wellbeing.

We translate the latest scientific research into practical, actionable steps that yield measurable results. Our programmes are not one-size-fits-all. We tailor them to the specific needs of your neurodiverse employees, ensuring all individuals receive the personalised support they deserve.

It's not just about knowledge; our team's dedication and passion go beyond textbook solutions. We fuel positive change with genuine enthusiasm, partnering with you to create a thriving work environment where everyone can excel.

The UCU difference is clear. By optimising focus, reducing stress, and boosting overall wellbeing, we empower your employees to perform at their peak. Reduced absenteeism and increased focus lead to a measurable improvement in overall productivity. A thriving, neuro-inclusive workforce fosters innovation, drives impactful results, and enriches your organisation's overall success.

Investing in your employees' wellbeing is not just an expense; it's a strategic investment. 

Investing in your employees' wellbeing is not just an expense; it's a strategic investment.

By partnering with Uniquely Created U, you create a culture of inclusion, unlock the full potential of your workforce, and achieve a significant competitive edge. Embrace the future of work. Invest in your people.

Contact Uniquely Created U today.

Back to Top

FAQ's: Neurodiversity in the workplace

Why support neurodiversity in the workplace?

Supporting neurodiversity benefits everyone. It fosters a more inclusive environment where unique strengths can shine. Neurodiverse employees often excel in areas like creativity, problem-solving, and attention to detail, leading to a more innovative and successful workplace.

Are there policies about neurodiversity in the workplace?

Formal neurodiversity policies are becoming more common but not mandatory everywhere. However, most workplaces have legal requirements to provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities, which can include neurodiversity conditions.

Back to Top


  1. Recognising neurodiversity in the workforce • government events. Government Events. (2021, November 19).
  2. Neurodiversity is a competitive advantage. Harvard Business Review. (2021, August 27).
  3. Cope, R., & Remington, A. (2022). The strengths and abilities of autistic people in the workplace. Autism in Adulthood, 4(1), 22–31.
  4. Ekdahl, D. (2023). The double empathy problem and the problem of empathy: Neurodiversifying phenomenology. Disability & Society, 1–23.
  5. van Rijswijk, J., Curșeu, P. L., & van Oortmerssen, L. A. (2024). Cognitive and neurodiversity in groups: A systemic and integrative review. Small Group Research, 55(1), 44–88.
  6. Cole, N. (2023, March 13). Recognising neurodiversity in the workplace. Steps To Work.
  7. Mahto, M., Person, Sniderman, B., & Hogan, S. K. (2023, June 11). Creating support for neurodiversity in the Workplace. Deloitte Insights.
  8. Government must tackle the autism employment gap. undefined. (2016, October 27).
  9. Turi, J. A., Khastoori, S., Sorooshian, S., & Campbell, N. (2022). Diversity impact on organizational performance: Moderating and mediating role of Diversity Beliefs and leadership expertise. PLOS ONE, 17(7).
  10. Ellerbeck, S. (2023, May 2). Employers now see #neurodiversity as a strength in the #workplace, this is why. World Economic Forum.
  11. Gallup, Inc. (2024, February 7). Workhuman.
  12. Hollocks, M. J., Lerh, J. W., Magiati, I., Meiser-Stedman, R., & Brugha, T. S. (2018). Anxiety and depression in adults with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological Medicine, 49(4), 559–572.
  13. Jamil, A., Gutlapalli, S. D., Ali, M., Oble, M. J., Sonia, S. N., George, S., Shahi, S. R., Ali, Z., Abaza, A., & Mohammed, L. (2023). Meditation and its mental and physical health benefits in 2023. Cureus.
  14. American Psychological Association. (2017). What is cognitive behavioral therapy?. American Psychological Association.,both%20research%20and%20clinical%20practice.
Back to Top