The benefits and challenges of hybrid working for neurodivergent people

Dr Alice Siberry – Specialist Neurodiversity Criminal Justice Consultant

This year will see the introduction of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) bill (2023), which provides employees the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job. This reflects the transformative shift in recent years, with remote work becoming a more prevalent and accessible option for many people.

Such shift has brought about numerous benefits, particularly for neurodivergent people, for example:

  • Being able to choose a work location that suits their sensory needs and preferences, such as a quiet home office or a co-working space with natural light.
  • Being able to adjust their work hours to match their energy levels and productivity cycles, such as starting earlier or later, taking longer breaks or splitting their work day into segments.
  • Managing work-life balance better by reducing commuting stress, saving time and money, and having more control over personal commitments.

However, there have been many criticisms towards remote working, including challenges in managing a hybrid team. Managing a hybrid team, where some members work remotely and others in an office, requires a thoughtful and inclusive approach to ensure effective collaboration, communication, and productivity. This is what can help: 

Establishing Clear Communication Channels

  • Ask employees about their preferred communication methods and respect their choices. For example, some neurodivergent employees may prefer email or instant messaging over phone calls.
  • Utilise a variety of communication tools to accommodate different preferences and needs, such as MS Teams and WhatsApp messages and voice notes.

Investing in Technology

  • Ensure that your team has access to reliable and up-to-date technology that supports remote collaboration and that they have had training and onboarding on how to use such platforms.
  • Implement project management tools, file-sharing platforms, and communication apps to streamline workflows and enhance team connectivity. Microsoft have a suite of tools to assist with this including SharePoint, Teams, and Planner.

Setting Expectations and Guidelines

  • Establish clear guidelines for working hours, availability, and response times to create consistency within the team, whilst acknowledging people’s energy levels and embracing the flexibility of remote working.
  • Clearly communicate expectations for remote and on-site work, including attendance at meetings, project deadlines, and communication etiquette. Consider whether someone actually needs to be there in person, and where they might be at their best.  
  • Remember that neurodivergent employees might benefit from having written guidelines, checklists or even scripts to process these expectations and to navigate small talk.

Promoting Inclusivity

  • Ensure that all team members, whether on-site or remote, have equal access to information, opportunities, and decision-making processes.
  • Encourage on-site employees to use virtual communication tools to include remote team members in discussions and meetings.
  • Foster a sense of team identity and camaraderie through virtual team-building activities, both formal and informal.
  • Create opportunities for social interaction such as weekly online team meetings.
  • Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins to maintain open lines of communication and receive feedback about the approach.

“As a Neurodivergent Manager, my focus can easily neglect those not working directly with me, utilising strong and consistent rules around engagement helps massively with this not having a negative impact”.

By implementing these strategies, all members of the team can be accommodated, creating a harmonious and productive work environment for a hybrid team, and ensuring that all team members feel valued and included.


CIPD guidance to the Employment Relation (Flexible Working) bill

Hybrid working guidance from Microsoft

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