How AI can revolutionise work for neurodivergent employees

Neurodivergent employees sometimes need support in the workplace to conduct tasks others may find easy. We explore how artificial intelligence can be used to improve productivity and promote a more inclusive, fair, and equitable working environment for all.

5 mins read
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8 months ago

​Neurodivergent challenges in the workplace

Around 15% to 20% of the global population is thought to be neurodivergent, i.e., their thinking works differently to what society expects. This term refers to people with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette’s syndrome, or chronic mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Promoting neurodiversity and inclusion has proven business benefits, and it’s an employer’s responsibility to provide a workplace where the wellbeing of all employees is considered and accommodated.

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but the needs of neurodivergent people might differ from those of neurotypical individuals and can often be overlooked. Tasks that seem easy to others may be a struggle for neurodivergent people. Conversely, their strengths might far surpass those of neurotypical people.

Challenges neurodivergent people face usually relate to communication and professional relationships. For example, people with ADHD can struggle to stay focused in meetings or take longer to process information. And people with dyslexia may struggle with written communication and could misunderstand instructions written in emails. There are also many people who are unable to communicate with spoken words, such as non-verbal autistic people, those who are physically mute, or deaf people who find it difficult to speak aloud.

AI as a reasonable adjustment

Just as you would add a ramp to your workplace for disabled people to allow equal access to a physical building, employers must also make reasonable adjustments for neurodivergent people to have an equal chance of navigating neurotypical workplaces.

Employers with outdated systems may not be utilising technology that could vastly improve their workforce’s productivity.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has developed a lot in recent years, to the point where it is all around us. Today, it exists on almost every new phone, computer, and TV. AI already in use in the workplace includes:

  • Facial recognition for security

  • Text-to-speech software in word processors and browsers

  • Dictation software and voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant

  • Scheduling assistants within most digital calendars and to-do lists

  • Automated workflows

  • ChatGPT and other chatbots

  • Automatic transcription, and closed caption creation

  • Google Lens automatic translation and image searching

For most people, AI is simply an extra convenience, but much of it is proving essential to people with certain disabilities or neurological differences to help them complete their work to a similar standard as neurotypical people – i.e., those whose minds work as society expects.

Most AI is free and easy to implement into workplace systems and just requires employers to unblock the technology or allow its installation for those who need it. It would also create a more inclusive standard working practice to normalise the use of such tech in all meetings and other forms of communication.

Normalising digital accessibility

Making it standard practice to use certain accessibility tools, like autogenerated closed captions on video communications, for example, is a small way to show consideration for those with invisible disabilities and neurological difference. They don’t take much effort but can have a hugely positive impact on individual employees.

Another way might be regularly recording meetings and allowing participants to access AI generated transcripts. Other tools that should be encouraged include text-to-speech AI software on webpages or on-screen text. This can also be useful for face-to-face communication between colleagues, where one person struggles to communicate aloud.

Normalising these processes could be a game changer for those who need them but feel uncomfortable asking, especially if they are the only one who needs the accommodation. Neurological difference is still not widely understood, and those in need of these adjustments won’t necessarily know they need them until they use them and see a positive difference.

Those who struggle with written communication can integrate software like Grammarly into their systems and use voice assistants to help them complete certain tasks. We use these tools every day, but some employers may not provide them on company computers. External websites and browser add-ons like these tend to be blocked for security reasons within companies, but employers should consider allowing accessibility, where possible, for those who need it.

The future of AI systems at work

AI is already revolutionising the workplace for those who need additional support to unlock their most productive selves, and ongoing technological developments will soon see AI further integrated into our everyday working lives.

There has been a huge buzz around the latest piece of AI, ChatGPT, a chatbot that uses machine learning and data from across the internet, to answer users’ questions as if it were a real person. Microsoft has recently bought Open AI, the platform that developed the technology, and has plans to introduce a new AI assistant, 'Copilot' which would integrate into all its existing products. Instead of writing code to command it to complete tasks, users will be able to make requests in plain English.

There will always be a need for professionals in any industry. All the way back to the printing press or the production line, professionals feared technology would make us redundant. However, the technology we have developed so far has only led humans to advance. It has removed the burden of monotonous tasks to allow us instead to take on more creative, innovative, and interesting work.

As Reed has found since implementing our digital workplace systems, promoting the use of technology such as AI into a business inspires greater productivity and morale among employees. Those with invisible disabilities and neurological differences will feel especially grateful to employers for creating a supportive and inclusive environment where using AI is encouraged and assistive technology is normalised and available to all who might need it.

To find a talented professional to join your company, or take the next step in your career, contact your nearest Reed office.

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Employee monitoring: a guide to best practices
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Employee monitoring: a guide to best practices

Employee monitoring can help ensure productivity and accountability among employees, as managers can track their work progress and identify areas where improvement is needed. Monitoring enhances data security by detecting and preventing unauthorised access or data breaches and additionally, it enables you to adhere to regulatory and compliance requirements, reducing legal risks. 

The key thing to remember is that workplace surveillance is perfectly acceptable, as long as you can legally justify your reasons, and it is always better to be ‘overt’, not ‘covert’.  

A report shows that despite normality returning to working life post-pandemic, demand for employee surveillance software is 49% above 2019 levels. 

Our eBook, ‘Employee monitoring: a guide to best practices’, provides insight from top experts in the field including:    

Keith Rosser, Director of Group Risk and Reed Screening, Reed 

Hayfa Mohdzaini, Senior Research Adviser, CIPD

 By downloading this eBook, you will discover:   

  • What employee monitoring is 

  • Whether it's needed for your business

  • Considerations for introducing workplace monitoring  

  • The benefits and drawbacks  

  • Potential impact of surveillance on the workforce 

  • Your duties as a responsible employer 

“Monitoring software that employees see as intrusive and unnecessary is more likely to erode mutual trust in the employment relationship. Employers need to show how using monitoring software can benefit employees, while respecting their privacy.” -Hayfa Mohdzaini, Senior Research Adviser, CIPD.

Workplace monitoring: guidance for your organisation
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Workplace monitoring: guidance for your organisation

​In the past, workplace monitoring was relatively simplistic: employers relied on visual supervision and basic timekeeping systems, and the concept of privacy was limited.

Fast forward to the digital age. Employee monitoring has reached new levels of sophistication and become common practice for employers seeking to boost productivity, enhance security, and ensure compliance with regulations.

Improved productivity and deeper insights

With the advancement of technology, including GPS tracking, computer monitoring software, and biometric identification systems, surveillance can provide employers with detailed insights into employee activities and performance.

One of the key benefits of employee monitoring is the ability to track and improve productivity levels. By monitoring employees' activities, employers can identify inefficiencies, analyse workflow processes, and provide targeted feedback to enhance performance. This data-driven approach allows companies to optimise their operations, allocate resources effectively, and ultimately improve their bottom line.

Monitoring can also help employers identify and address issues such as time theft, excessive breaks, and unauthorised activities in the workplace. With real-time monitoring tools, employers can detect irregularities and take corrective actions promptly, therefore improving accountability and integrity among employees.

Employee monitoring can also aid in compliance with regulations and industry standards. By keeping a close eye on electronic communications, websites visited, and files accessed, employers can ensure that employees adhere to data protection laws, maintain confidentiality, and comply with company policies. This proactive approach minimises the risk of data breaches and security incidents and also protects the company from potential legal liabilities.

Balancing surveillance and ethics

Despite the clear advantages of employee monitoring, it is crucial for organisations to approach this practice with sensitivity and respect for staff privacy. As a matter of course, employers should establish clear policies regarding monitoring practices, communicate openly with employees about the purpose and scope of monitoring, and ensure transparency in the use of monitoring tools.

Prioritise the protection of sensitive employee data by implementing robust security measures, restricting access to monitoring data, and complying with data protection regulations such as GDPR. These considerations can ease employees’ minds about any surveillance and even instil appreciation for such measures. After all, workplace security is in everyone’s best interests.

Download our best practice guide to employee monitoring

Our eBook, ‘Employee monitoring: a guide to best practices’ provides insight into how employers might best integrate employee monitoring into their organisation, and considerations for what the impact may be on employees. With opinion from thought leaders, it addresses everything from pre-employment checks to the tracking tech that might be right your organisation.

Looking to hire top talent for your organisation or to find your next dream role? Get in touch with one of our specialist consultants today.

Temporary vs permanent teaching roles: which is best for you?
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Temporary vs permanent teaching roles: which is best for you?

​Whether you’re just starting out on your teaching career or considering your options midway through, both temporary and permanent teaching roles have much to offer in terms of personal and professional development. The deciding factor for many is often concerned with the impact an individual hopes to make in their career – whether they see a long future at a particular school or are drawn to the rich experiences that may lie in a series of temporary or supply teaching roles at different schools.  

Temporary teaching roles: flexibility and exploration 

Temporary teaching roles offer educators flexibility and variety in their careers. Whether it be covering maternity leave, sabbaticals, or filling short-term vacancies, these roles provide opportunities to gain diverse experiences across different schools, age groups, and subjects. For those craving new challenges and exposure to various teaching methodologies, temporary teaching, cover teaching or supply teaching positions – just some of terms by which short-term teaching goes by – can be immensely rewarding. 

Temporary (or temp) roles enable teachers to test the waters before committing to a long-term position. They offer a glimpse into different school cultures, leadership styles, and student demographics, allowing educators to discern their preferences and strengths. This exploratory phase can be invaluable for early-career teachers seeking to refine their teaching approach and identify their niche within the education sector. 

It may even be said that everyone should try supply teaching at some point in their teaching career. Such roles can strengthen resilience and help teachers adapt to diverse environments, navigate unexpected challenges, and quickly establish a rapport with students and colleagues. These experiences enrich professional skill sets and cultivate a broader perspective on education. 

However, temp roles come with some uncertainties, such as job insecurity and lack of long-term stability. While it is highly unlikely in the current climate – unless you are inflexible when it comes to your working location – teachers may face periods of unemployment between assignments, necessitating financial planning and resilience to withstand potential gaps in income. The transient nature of temporary roles can impede the establishment of deep-rooted connections within school communities, potentially affecting professional networking and career advancement opportunities, unless working with a reputable teaching recruiter 

Permanent teaching roles: stability and long-term impact 

In contrast, permanent teaching roles offer greater stability and security, providing educators with the assurance of ongoing employment and consistent income. For individuals seeking to establish roots within a school community, build lasting relationships with students and colleagues, and contribute to long-term educational initiatives, permanent positions are conducive to professional growth. 

Permanent (or perm) roles afford teachers the opportunity to make a sustained impact on students’ lives, offering continuity and consistency in their educational journey. By immersing themselves in a specific school culture and curriculum, educators can develop deep connections with students and take on mentorship opportunities and leadership roles that contribute to the school community. 

Permanent roles often provide access to comprehensive benefits packages, including healthcare, pension schemes, and professional development opportunities. These perks enhance job satisfaction and overall wellbeing, helping teachers feel valued and supported. A permanent contract often makes it easier for teachers to access opportunities for career progression and development. 

However, commitment to a permanent teaching role entails a long-term investment in a specific school or institution, therefore factors such as school ethos, leadership vision, and career prospects should be considered before committing to a permanent position. Conversely, such roles may limit opportunities for professional exploration and diversification, potentially stifling creativity and innovation in teaching practices. 

Deciding what's best for you: priorities and nice-to-haves 

Ultimately, the decision between temporary and permanent teaching roles hinges on individual priorities, aspirations, and circumstances. Here’s how to guide your decision-making process: 

Reflect on your career goals:

Take time to assess your long-term career aspirations, values, and priorities. Consider whether you prioritise stability and continuity or crave variety and exploration in your professional journey. 

Evaluate your personal circumstances:

Consider factors such as financial obligations, family commitments, and lifestyle preferences when weighing the pros and cons of supply and permanent roles. Could you cope with long commutes for example, or be ready to move time and again? Determine how each option aligns with your personal circumstances and desired work-life balance.  

Seek mentorship and advice:

Reach out to experienced educators, mentors, and career advisors for guidance and insights. Their perspectives can offer valuable guidance when it comes to the nuances of temporary and permanent teaching roles and help you make an informed decision. 

Flexibility and adaptability:

Remain open to new opportunities and embrace the flexibility inherent in both temporary and permanent roles. Your career journey may evolve over time, and being adaptable to change is essential for growth and fulfilment. 

Choosing between temporary and permanent teaching roles is a deeply personal decision that is best decided by evaluating professional aspirations and personal circumstances. While teachers all have the same goal in educating and inspiring the next generation, the way they achieve this may be through various routes – making a difference to the lives of many in one or more schools. 

Looking for your next teaching role? Get in touch with our specialist education recruiters today for temporary and permanent teaching opportunities.