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Focussing on Space Utilisation and Planning to Improve Neurodiversity in the Workplace

June 30, 2022

For many years now, the focus on space utilisation, planning, and use, has been directed at more intensively exploiting work areas, to employ an unpleasant phrase ‘sweating the assets’. With the advent of Covid, the consequent increase in hybrid and flexible working, along with social distancing, and the need to create workspaces where people feel safe to return to the workplace, additional demands are being placed on space planners. Cost as always is still a major consideration, but now there is also more of a focus on ensuring workspaces are flexible enough and suitable for individual’s needs.

In recent years we have been heavily involved in helping organisations understand how they can use their workspaces more intensively, particularly as they have been endeavouring to reduce overheads. More recently there has been a focus, not on making greater use of space, but reducing capacity to accommodate social distancing, and create environments that make people feel safer, thereby encouraging stakeholders to return to the office. But this shift in focus, has given space managers opportunity to re-examine estate needs of the current, and future workforce, from a more qualitative perspective.

Organisations are now seeing the need to consider supporting their staff in a greater variety of ways. It is therefore a good time to discuss Neurodiversity and its impact on the way workspace should accommodate people’s different requirements. Neurodiversity deals with the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioural traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population, it is used especially in the context of autistic spectrum disorders.

Everyone is different, we work differently and have different demands. This acknowledgement conflicts to an extent with the ethos of flexible working which has in its day seen large open plan spaces filled with standard ‘hot desks’. However, the opportunities derived in changes in work practice following the pandemic have shown us that we can be more adventurous in the way we design and manage our work environments. Developing work environments to accommodate quiet spaces, collaborative work areas, modifying zones with soft furnishings, décor, and the use of plants, and lighting, just to name a few considerations in design. These types of modification not only make work areas more enjoyable, but also provide opportunity for people with differing needs to be accommodated. The key is flexibility, adaptability and the ability for people to personalise their choice of location without permanently personalising the desk

Of course, modifying work areas in such a way may appear to fly contrary to the notion of maximising occupancy. What is required is a balance between maximising use of available space, and providing a sufficiently accommodative environment to increase individual productivity. To achieve this balance, a detailed understanding of space, needs, and current demand, are essential. By combining both quantitative, and qualitative data, from an examination of these perspectives can not only demonstrate how space is currently performing, but also help users to determine how that space can be transformed to meet future demand.

So how can we help?

At EventMAP we have extensive experience in workplace utilisation, transformation, planning and detailed requirements gathering. Over this last decade, we have helped organisations rationalise their estate, and adapt them to accommodate back-to-work initiatives, develop carbon reductions strategies, and modify space to accommodate varied staffing requirements. We have a variety of tools at our disposal that allow us to ascertain current use, plan for future needs, model a variety of use scenarios, and then manage resources according to the organisations corporate plan and objectives.

Given the move to more hybrid and remote working, it does give opportunities to modify office workplaces more imaginatively. This can provide multiple benefits. Not only does it make the office a more appealing environment for all staff, encouraging them to utilise this space. It also means that demographics not previously catered for, can now be provided with a work environment that speaks to their needs. Staff who work better without distractions can be accommodated, just as those that work more effectively in more collaborative environments. Individuals with sensory difficulties can be accommodated in a workplace that is more considerate to their requirements. It allows employers to see staff with certain neurodivergent traits, as individuals with differing talents and skills that can enhance team output.

Such considerations have not historically been given the attention that they should have. But with more thought being given to these qualitative issues, it is heartening to recognise that the tools exist to facilitate these demands.

If you would like to know more about the work we have been involved in, or if you have any insights around the issue of neurodiversity in the workplace, please get in touch. Also, if you are facing any challenges in adapting your work areas to accommodate such diversity issues, contact us, and we will gladly discuss your requirements.

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