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People Matter September 2019

Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Most people are neurotypical, meaning their brains process information as society expects. But some, you could say, “think different” to quote Apple’s famous advertising slogan. They are neurodivergent.

Neurodivergent people are often diagnosed with a condition, which can come with stigma. The main examples are ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia. While they can each be associated with specific difficulties which are well documented, they also often give rise to strengths which come from thinking differently.
For instance, people with ADHD may be good at completing urgent tasks, those with autism at developing deep specialist knowledge, people with dyslexia at problem-solving and employees with dyspraxia at strategic thinking.

It all varies from person to person. But recognising neurodiversity and building a supportive working environment could give you a key advantage when trying to get the right blend of skills in your business.

So what kind of accommodations could you make to help neurodivergent people fit in and thrive. Recruitment is a sensible place to start and you could reflect whether there’s any unconscious bias in your recruitment process.

Consider how adaptable your recruiting techniques are. Over-reliance on traditional methods like CV screening and the panel interview may afford virtually no opportunity to people with dyslexia or autism.

We’ve already touched on some of the neurodivergent skills which will be attractive to businesses. But what about the kind of workplace environment that will be attractive to people who are neurodivergent?

Workplaces and business processes are often designed for the neurotypical. So again, some flexibility would be welcome. For instance, if someone is uncomfortable with the noise and movement of an open plan office, could they have a seat in a less busy area and be allowed to wear headphones?

Want to benefit from a more neurodivergent workforce? Speak to your local HR Dept


Working out how to boost employee productivity

It’s no secret that exercise helps the mind and body. But did you realise healthy workers are good for the bottom line?

Exercise has been linked to increased productivity and reduced stress. For example, a worldwide survey of more than one million leaders showed that exceptional ones exercise regularly.

The benefits are so impressive that some employers are encouraging staff to work out on company time. Workplace health programs have been linked with a 25% decrease in sick leave absenteeism and a 41% decrease in workers compensation costs.

Investing in employee wellbeing can also produce an almost six-fold return on investment.

Suggestions from Exercise & Sports Science Australia include:
• Have active meetings — talk while you walk
• Active deskwork — set hourly reminders for active breaks
• Active commute — cycle to work, get off the bus a stop or two earlier or park the car further away and walk
• Active lunch — walk during breaks

For advice on creating a workplace that’s healthy for business, contact The HR Dept.


The business benefits of closing the gender pay gap

2019 marks the 50th anniversary since equal pay for equal work was enshrined in law. Women, however, still earn on average $241.50 (or 14%) less than men per week. This means they must work an additional 49 days annually to achieve the same earnings!

Although the national gender pay gap has decreased slightly, new research suggests it could be halved by 2025.

The Closing the Gender Pay Gap report from the Chifley Research Centre models public policy interventions that would have the biggest and most rapid impact. They include:

  • increased transparency to address workplace discrimination
  • addressing underpayment of women in feminised industries and
  • addressing the value of unpaid work and the role of men as carers

Benefits of equal pay

Achieving equal pay is more than the right thing to do. It has positive economic ramifications. With 6% more women in the workforce, Australia’s economy could gain an extra $25 billion annually.

For businesses, gender pay equity has other bonuses, including:

  • creating a motivated, happy and productive workforce
  • becoming an employer of choice to attract top talent
  • improving staff retention and reducing turnover costs
  • fulfilling your legal obligations and avoiding costly discrimination complaints
  • inspiring consumer confidence and preventing negative PR from legal proceedings or allegations of gender pay inequity

The Fair Work Commission notes that gender pay equity covers more than wages. It includes allowances, performance payments, merit payments, bonuses and superannuation.

Best practice employers ensure that gender-based pay discrimination is not part of their remuneration system. The HR Dept can provide expert advice on how your business can meet Fair Work obligations and be an employer of choice for women.


Noise works? Not in the workplace!

Anyone who’s lived with noisy neighbours knows how annoying it is. But rowdy colleagues (and other workplace ‘noise pollution’) can up the irritation to new decibels.

According to Sony’s latest Sound Report, 80% of Australians encounter unwanted workplace noise – with noise from co-workers receiving the biggest complaints. For 54% of participants, unwanted noise made it difficult to concentrate, while 44% said it made them feel irritable or annoyed.

This stress can cause interrupted sleep, leading to reduced overall productivity.

Another study by Plantronics and Future Workplace showed that 81% of participants believe open-plan workspaces allow them to be more productive. However, 99% said they get distracted in that set up.

To combat this, employers can provide quiet working spaces, consider the acoustics of their office and provide noise-cancelling headphones to staff.

Contact The HR Dept for recommendations on creating a workplace that’s peaceful and productive.


Why overtime can deliver diminishing returns

It might be considered “normal” in some industries, but the cost of working overtime can quickly outstrip any benefits if it isn’t well managed.

Research shows that mental health tends to decline after working 39 hours a week.

Go beyond 48 hours and job performance will suffer, while signs of depression, anxiety and poor sleep can surface.

Working more than 10 hours a day increases workplace injury risk by 40%, and it doubles after 12 hours.

Talk to The HR Dept’s experts for advice on balancing your business needs with the wellbeing and productivity of your staff.

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