Neurodivergence in the workplace

Tuesday, May 7, 2024


As inclusivity in the workplace is getting more attention, another aspect is on the rise: neuro-inclusivity. Neurodivergents face barriers and discrimination at work. 1 in 5 people have a psychological disorder. The question is not if you have them in your workspace, but how to support those who are neurodivergent?

Table of contents

  • What is neurodivergence?
  • Vulnerability to strength
  • Accommodating bipolar disorder and other neurodivergent brains
  • Safety first
  • Conclusion

What is neurodivergence?

There are different answers to a seemingly easy question. Let’s keep it easy. It's anyone whose brain is different from the 'norm'. The first ones that might come to mind are Autism, ADHD or dyslexia. Though Bipolar Disorder, Tourettes and Schizophrenia belong under this umbrella as well.

I will put the examples I give, in the context of bipolar disorder. As I am, in fact, bipolar. Do note that within every neurodivergent brain there is a different experience. Every one of them has their own spectrum. A spectrum that, in this case, is not linear but circular.

So, what is bipolar disorder?

Roughly 1-2 in 100 people have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that knows (hypo)mania and depression. There are different types within this disorder. It can affect our lives to the point it can disrupt. It’s not just having some highs and lows. But with the right adjustments and outlook on our lives it can give us a chance of stability. Being able to work is one of those things that can help us achieve that said stability. Here’s my thoughts on how you, as a team or as a company can support bipolar talents.

Vulnerability to strength

Employers have the power to celebrate the benefits and talents of us, neurodivergent people. I do want to say it's not an us (neurodivergent) versus them (neurotypicals). We all want the same thing. A working environment nurtures employees and puts them in their strength. With the rising advancements and automation you need out of the box thinkers, people who inspire each other. It’s the power of having a neuro-inclusive workplace. So try to forget what you think you know and be open to the experience of the individual.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Accommodating bipolar disorder and other neurodivergent brains

Accommodating to a person’s needs to be an optimal performer should be the norm. It’s not a privilege or special treatment. According to this article by Ludmila N Praslova for Harvard Business Review, if an autistic professional is matched with their needs and skills they are up to 140% more productive than the average employee. In my experience this is not only for autistic people. As I’m bipolar I noticed a similar theme. This is why communication and understanding is important. When it’s about bipolar disorder you can do the following

Make use of the highs

Our highs can make us creative and give us daring ideas. Perfect for out of the box solutions for new projects. Usually we can push through a lot of projects at once as well. Deadlines, I eat them. Let me walk around and sit wherever. I promise, I’m working, our brain just does best when we are freely moving around. We have so many ideas flowing, we need to move to figure out if they’re ideas that can help you or the team.

Make use of the lows

Give us tasks where we can focus on noticing patterns, optimising SOPS, onboarding or strategies. It’s best to not give us pressuring deadlines in this period. Having the possibility to either sit in a quiet room or hybrid options is a great solution to optimise my energy. Having noise cancelling headphones can cause friction for me. Sometimes I do well with them. Other times I don’t. I would rather sit in a quiet room and some other quiet loving co-workers (hello introverts).

The stable period

Of course we’ve a stable period as well. It really depends on the person how this period is. For me, it’s looking out for sensory overload. I get it every so often. Which results in me talking out loud to organise and destress my brain. It makes me aware of what is going on. This way I can easily detect if I might slip into higher energy or lower energy. Whatever the case may be, trust us that we can estimate ourselves what we can handle. Don’t compare work pressure to your own frame of reference.

Spiky profiles

A great way to find someone’s strengths, especially with neurodivergent brains, is to let them take a spiky profile test. Neurodivergents are more likely to perform highly in some areas and lower in others. That’s why it’s called a spiky profile. This way you can really play to their strength. With spiky profiles you can forge teams with complementary skill sets.

Safety first

Masking is something a lot of neurodivergents do. Masking however is exhausting and puts stress on the neurodivergent person. In terms of bipolar disorder it can trigger us in being more unstable than needed. Because for most of us it feels like a secret we need to keep.

Before people can show their true talent you need to have a safe environment. There are more ways than one to accomplish this. Utilise open discussions, it helps break down barriers and remove stigmas. This way we can lower the 76% and it becomes the power of your workplace.


Education is another one that is important. Inviting speakers and professionals to educate your team and raise awareness is a great way to make your environment more safe. Having an internal network or the use of a personal use manual might give insights on individual needs. It can give insight on how to communicate, what their values are or how they work.


Understanding and accommodating neurodiversity, particularly in the workplace, is essential for creating inclusive environments where all individuals can thrive. Including those with conditions such as bipolar disorder. By embracing neurodiversity, employers can tap into a pool of diverse skills and strengths, fostering innovation and creativity.

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By Linda van Mierlo

Linda van Mierlo is a RightBrains community member, founder of “de neurodivergente copywriter” and speaker about bipolar disorder. Linda’s mission is to raise awareness and create support for neurodiversity in the workplace.