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Is there any way to have more neurodiverse friendly workplaces?

aspi_scientist

New Member
Hi everyone,

I am a biomedical scientist with constant suffering of chatting noise coming to my office that has no proper wall.

I can not concentrate on work and this makes me nervous everyday.

Is there any biomedical research center that provides people with proper silent office and lab environment?

Is there any way we can legally enforce our institutions to provide more silent workplaces for us?

In my workplace, offices and labs are side by side, and closing office doors are entirely useless.

Even worse, no one can understand why I am getting angry everyday.

It is very unfair for the people in the spectrum to struggle in a life designed by neurotypical people.

They define themselves as "normal" just because they are the majority of the population.

Best,
 

Mr. Stevens

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Have you talked to anyone at work about this, @aspi_scientist? Do you think they'll be open to helping you? That's how I got accommodations. But, I'm lucky to work in a place that will really go out of their way to accommodate.
 

Duncan74

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
My workplace (not a lab = professional services) has huge support for all types of neurodiversity. From plain cultural acceptance and support to more specific practical support. That being said in the case of the noise you highlight, can you wear headphones, ear plugs, etc. Have you raised this with anyone in your team, management, HR?

In my workplace there's the reverse, everyone is sitting with noise cancelling headphones on and so there's an issue with the grads/interns not learning anything from passively picking up the discussions between the seniors. Indeed this is an industry wide recognised challenge, especially post covid.
 
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Angular Chap

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Think about writing down notes about your concerns, then turn them into a professionally worded letter to give to HR. Print off multiple copies of your letter, one for HR, maybe one for an immediate supervisor/manager and keep one to hand, just in case. Also keep your notes to hand, less risk of forgetting anything if you have a face to face discussion about your concerns.

Also look into the company policy on such things. See if they actually care about making accommodations for staff needs, or if they just have a copy-paste legal statement written by lawyers for compliance sake.

You never know, there could be other people in your workplace also on the spectrum, and you could be the start of some welcome change for yourself and others.
 

Duncan74

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Every workplace has it's own culture. Having said that, I'd really consider an informal verbal discussion to start. Explain the issue, it may well be that other colleagues are struggling with the same. Just waiting for someone to raise it, or it may be something that there is the appetite to quickly support.

A formal letter to HR can end up creating formality, assessments by occupational therapists, delays, higher costs, etc.
 

tree

Blue/Green
Staff member
V.I.P Member
@aspi_scientist

no one can understand why I am getting angry everyday

Maybe you should tell them.
They aren't likely to be mind readers.

If they were, the situation would already be resolved.
 

GypsyMoth

Sui generis.
V.I.P Member
Hi @aspi_scientist,

No, I don't think most people are as bothered by constant, interruptive noise as we are. As odd as it sounds, some people actually can't stand silence.

I work in a fairly noisy environment. It is a spacious room where cube-city has been arranged at varying heights, so it's somewhat aesthetically pleasing compared to other cube-cities where I've been installed.

Folks come and go, leaving anywhere from a busy handful to dozens of people in the office at any given time. I've noticed there is an ebb-and-flow to their chatter and I try to work with it as best I can. It helps to be able to anticipate when the office volume is going to raise significantly because sometimes I am able to be more selective about what tasks I tackle at those times. (And sometimes not.)

The number one thing I do that doesn't help is not getting enough sleep the night before. This is a challenge with my insomnia. It leaves me less able to filter the noise and more susceptible to being in a persnickety mood overall.

There are a number of things I do to help deal with the noise. First, earplugs. My boss (who I don't think is ND) wears the Loop and said they come in multiple decibel ratings. I haven't had the cash to buy a pair yet. Here's a review:


I'm still using bright orange foam earplugs. Folks around me are figuring out that they have to repeat themselves if they start talking at me until I take them out. Sure, I can hear them just fine, it's just that I'm focused on my work & the delay buys me a moment to adjust to the interruption. We have a lot of people at work who wear some sort of earplug.

On days when I just can't filter the noise at all, I'll stim at my desk--however obliquely I am able to--and I have a couple of fidgets that help, too. I figure I'm there to work and if I can't concentrate then I'm not working.

It helps that I work for a fairly progressive entity (we have a designated quiet place where you can go sit in the dark), that I am surrounded by at least three other autistics, that several co-workers have autistic children, and that many other staff have training in autism here, too. So it seems to me that nothing I've been doing thus far has given cause for alarm. But then again, if anyone does find it weird, I'll probably be the last to hear about it.

You might talk with your supervisor about moving to a quieter location.

One last thought. Maybe your space would be helped by one of these?

You can choose to deal constructively with your situation or challenge it and in doing so increase its negative effects. It's up to you. Your co-workers aren't there to understand you--they're there to work, just like you. If your anger at your situation is getting picked up by them, they'll most likely think it's them you're angry with, not their noise, and they're going to take it personally. You have no control over them or how they'll take things. But you do have control over how you respond to things that anger you. I hope you may find something here that's helpful.

Lastly,
They define themselves as "normal" just because they are the majority of the population.
Yeah, well, that's the definition of normal. To 'normalize' something is to standardize it or to cause it to be the mean against which deviations are measured, right? That would seem to be rather a basic, scientific principle...
 
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Stuttermabolur

Wondering...
V.I.P Member
Fellow biomedical researcher here (biochemist).

I totally understand what you are talking about, and I agree that it can be frustrating. I have two workplaces, one is a private company where we have a quiet office sequestered from the (little used) lab space, and the other one a university where we don't even have an office, so you need to sit in the open in front of the lab where you can hear chatter from other students from two floors below you. It's horrible.

I think that it probably won't be simple to find an "official" solution to your problem. If they have a loud office, and it's situated next to a loud laboratory, I don't see how they could silence the office for you, but I also understand that headphones can be annoying and might be suboptimal. What I recommend is three-fold.

1. You know your situation and environment better than me, but it might help to let your immediate supervisor know about your autism if they don't know already. It's quite common for scientists to be "on the spectrum" so they might be able to accommodate you somehow. I let my supervisor know and might get to stay in a closed room in the university, though it isn't technically an office.

2. I know that a lot of the time, this isn't practical, especially in the sciences, but I recommend working from home when able. Maybe when writing, going through data or reading journals. Of course you might be working in a team so need to be in frequent contact, or need ready access to the lab, so only do this when you know your presence isn't needed. I do this myself since there is way less noise at home.

3. I don't know what your workplace is like, but in both of mine there are some abandoned rooms which no-one uses for most of the day, if ever. Perhaps you can explore the building and see if you can find some place to turn into your unofficial office, or just cool down when you are feeling overwhelmed. Your supervisor might also have some suggestion or give you the keys to some room.

I wish you the best.
 

VictorR

Random Member
V.I.P Member
Hello and welcome!

I’m going to provide some general guidance / thoughts based on the details available – I note that some of these (of variations thereof) have already been covered by other thread contributors.

Here, I’m generally using the word “adjustment” instead of “accommodation” as it takes a more neutral tone.

Does anyone (direct supervisor, manager, HR) know you’re in need of adjustments? If not, then you may wish to consider who you want to bring that up with. Your contract or employer’s policy may specify someone that you would need to contact in the event of any accommodation requests. You may wish to also consider if you have any trusted colleagues whom you may wish to approach to see what their thoughts are (perhaps someone who is a union representative or known to be a disability advocate, if there is one) before doing so, and maybe to help identify how you can best go about doing so. Sometimes the employer may very well be willing to work with someone informally to make things work, but of course they can’t “fix” something if they don’t know it’s a concern for you.

If the employer is wanting more information (and quite often they will – this is sometimes do to trying to ensure that what’s being asked for is an necessary adjustment rather than a preference, and so that if someone else wants the same thing, that they can explain that they had reviewed the circumstances and deemed that it warranted accommodation, and that it wasn’t them playing favourites. This also happens in non-disability accommodation scenarios, such as allowing someone with a young child to have a split shift to accommodate school and daycare schedules.

When writing a request, focus on the positives and outcomes, and where possible, estimated performance improvement (or mitigated loss of productivity). While costs are not supposed to be a consideration (and the legal requirement is often to the point of undue hardship, which means aside from mom-and-pop type micro employers, that most things should be accommodatable), being able to show the relative costs and benefits allows the employer to make the decision more easily, as it’s not only the right thing (and potentially legally required) thing to do, but something that also makes business sense.

Check also if there are organizations and/or government programs that assist with individuals with disabilities and employment. Sometimes they may have funding available to help an employer with purchasing equipment or making modifications to their workplace.

Good luck!
 

aspi_scientist

New Member
Yeah, well, that's the definition of normal. To 'normalize' something is to standardize it or to cause it to be the mean against which deviations are measured, right? That would seem to be rather a basic, scientific principle...
Yes I totally agree with you but the problem here is the that they also define neurodivergent or autistic people as mentally ill. I would not have had any problem regarding neurotypical-managed society if only they had defined people like us as abnormal or different.
 

aspi_scientist

New Member
@aspi_scientist

no one can understand why I am getting angry everyday

Maybe you should tell them.
They aren't likely to be mind readers.

If they were, the situation would already be resolved.
I told people several times.

In addition, I complained to the HR dozens of times through e-mails.

The director placed a couple of warning notes to keep people silent but it does not work well.
 

Rodafina

Hopefully Human
V.I.P Member
The director placed a couple of warning notes to keep people silent but it does not work well.
Do you mean actually silent?
This seems infeasible for any communal workspace. Can you adjust your expectations a bit and pair environmental accommodations with personal solutions (i.e. noise canceling headphones).
 

GypsyMoth

Sui generis.
V.I.P Member
Another idea. I have just invested in a pair of wireless earbuds to have something else on in the background. (Music for studying, bird song, sounds of rain.) Don’t know if it’s going to work or not—sometimes more noise is just more noise. The idea is to train myself to focus on that so that when it’s noisier it will take the place of the increased volume around me. In effect, my aim is to have it function as white noise. It’s a stopgap solution, as there are certain things I do where I absolutely cannot listen to music in the background, no matter how quietly it’s played. (Or anything else, for that matter.)

Also, listening to music through earbuds in the office seems very socially acceptable. People relate to it easily.

What I’d like to know how to resolve is the security door beep. Doesn’t bother me where I sit, but when coming in through the door it really hurts my ears.
 

GypsyMoth

Sui generis.
V.I.P Member
Yes I totally agree with you but the problem here is the that they also define neurodivergent or autistic people as mentally ill. I would not have had any problem regarding neurotypical-managed society if only they had defined people like us as abnormal or different.
Yes, that is an unfortunate problem. ‘Abnormal’ carries a negative connotation but I’m fine with ‘different’. I am severely limited in who I can talk to about it because so many people are wedded to the psychological view, which insinuates that autism is an illness needing to be cured. Few I’ve spoken to (even in the medical field) are aware of developments in the last 20 years or so that secure arguments advanced by the medical model or advancements in neuroscience.
 

Alaric593

Well-Known Member
The best thing my firm did was create quiet rooms for employees. While I have my own space, I'm rarely there. I do 75% of my work in a quiet room.
 

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