Monthly Archives: January 2021

Neurodiverse Workspaces – Inclusive Workforce with Competitive Advantage

If you are a champion of workplace diversity and have been contemplating exploiting the vast untapped potential of an ‘inclusive workforce’, then this article talks about why you might just be thinking right! But what exactly is this term ‘neurodiversity’ and can it really benefit your organization is for you to decide. This article delves into the complex and intriguing world of neurodiversity and how it can contribute to the workplace.

What is Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity refers to variation in neurocognitive functioning - an umbrella term that encompasses neurocognitive differences such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, Tourette’s, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other disorders as well as ‘normal’ neurocognitive functioning, or neurotypicality. Being neurodiverse simply means having a brain that’s “wired differently”. Neurodiverse individuals have intellectual, developmental, or learning disorders when compared to neurotypical folks, which makes it difficult for them to express and adjust themselves socially. For instance, autistic individuals may have the inability to hold or initiate a conversation, may have poor eye contact, lack of social cues such as smiling and responding, or usage of repetitive language. Also, some of these individuals can be hyper-sensitive to light or noise which can be regular to normal employees. In return for these shortcomings, they are blessed with superior technical and mathematical abilities with a strong propensity for detail and can focus on complex tasks for an extended period - patterns that you won’t typically find in a neurotypical individual.

What Neurodiverse people bring to the table?

Neurodiverse people have talents, perspectives, and skills that can add a distinct variety to the work environment. The European Union estimates a shortage of 800,000 IT workers by 2020[1], specifically in fields including data analytics and IT services implementation - jobs with tasks that fit well with the unique abilities of some neurodiverse people, which includes those with autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Promoting ‘Inclusion’ at the workplace

Neurodiversity should ideally be an essential part of any organization’s talent strategy. However, in reality, organizations find it much easier to hire individuals who can gel into the existing way of things rather than hiring an ‘extraordinary’ resource and making critical organizational changes for their accommodation. What they underestimate is the fact that by embracing neurodiversity in the workplace, they can gain competitive advantages in many areas viz. productivity, innovation, organizational culture, and talent retention. In fact, a growing number of prominent companies such as SAP, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, Microsoft, Ford, and Deloitte, have been setting good examples by creating programs & processes to hire and accommodate people with autism. These companies acknowledge that people on the autism spectrum often come with special skills and perspectives that can open up diverse possibilities for both - organizations and them.

How can we design spaces to support Neurodiversity at work?
The typical challenges that neurodivergents could face in the workplace include Distractions, Sensory Stimulation & Wayfinding. To make things friendlier for them, there are some architectural changes that can be done such as:

    • Tweaking the lights a little - Using desk lamps that mimic natural sunlight instead of the overhead lights can help light-sensitive autistic individuals focus better
    • Reserving separate distraction-free workspaces - Open office plans can be quite distracting even for neurotypical individuals and more so for neurodiverse ones leading them to feel overwhelmed. For such, you can assign cubicles or an individual office workstation amid the open space.
    • Helping with day to day organization - For those struggling with concentration or organizational skills, extra resources such as Post-it notes, a whiteboard, or extra filing can help.

Additionally, organizations can conduct programs to bring awareness, educate, and sensitize neurotypicals on working with neurodivergent employees and engaging them. Training neurotypicals on how to adjust to or ignore certain inherent behaviours can also prove to be highly beneficial. Designing for neurodiversity and inclusion can not only unleash new opportunities for business but is also a social and moral imperative upon companies.

If you are looking to redesign your office with contemporary furniture solutions to suit a neurodiverse workforce, contact HNI India - the manufacturers & dealers of ergonomic and state of the art work from home & office furniture. To explore our range of ergonomic office furniture, visit our HNI India website today!

Finding It Hard to Work From Home? Here Are 3 Ways to Make Your Life Easy

Thanks to the almost en masse enforcement of “work from home”, we can imagine the term, ‘homework’ to take upon a whole new meaning today. For remote working parents with kids, working & schooling together from home means that ‘homework’ is no more related to their children but may also include their office work and well, the actual housework too. Previously, the travel distance between office and home used to give employees the time to transition into their roles. But today, your office starts right at your bed. What this has essentially done is blur the lines between professional and personal life, leading to health issues among people. To successfully maintain a healthy work-life balance, we should set clear boundaries by creating intentional ways to manage work & home. Here are 3 lines that you need to draw for clearly separating work from home and reclaiming your mental and physical health, even better than it was before.

  1. Limit usage of electronic devices

  • • Mute or manage social media notifications  

Social media is proving to be the biggest distraction of our times. How many times have you found yourself guilty of unlocking your phone to reply to a message and ending up surfing through Instagram and Facebook? In case you are using WhatsApp even for official communication, you can at least set a different tone for office contacts so that you know whether to check messages or not. Mute family groups!

  • • Avoid using multiple communication tools when connecting professionally 

More the tools, more are the chances of distraction & disturbance. Encourage your team to suggest or choose a communication platform and stick to it. Using multiple platforms will only increase your screen time and divide your attention.

  • • By not responding to emails, messages, and group chats immediately 

According to research, each time we’re distracted it takes around 23 minutes for an average person to get back on track. To avoid losing your focus to distraction, you may turn off personal email pop-ups and all app notifications. Schedule particular times throughout your day to respond to messages. Let everyone know by updating your app status or adding your schedule to your email signature or auto-response. Also, let people know that if it’s an emergency, they can surely call you.

   2. Set a boundary on the actual working area

  • • Define your office territory clearly 

Defining a clear work territory helps to avoid intrusion of your family in your workspace. Some people are juggling between working spouses, kids who can’t go to school and family who can’t be shifted anywhere else. When private space is a premium, it can be hard to focus. Whether you use the dining room table or your kid’s desk, defining a spot that screams “I’m at work” makes a big difference on your ability to focus. This serves as a visual cue for kids and other family members that you are now at work and should not be disturbed.

  • • Remove audio-visual distractions 

It’s easy to be distracted every time someone walks into the room. Shut your windows if the noise outside is distracting you. Block out “visual noise” with plants, bookcases, even your computer monitor to keep yourself focused. Tidy up your workspace to eliminate visual chaos which can also be distracting. 

  • • Keep it professional 

It is easy to get lost in the domestic chaos of mundane life. You can get for yourself a proper “work from home furniture”. This will not only mark a clear territory for children running in the middle of your work but also instil a sense of professionalism & sincerity while working. Equipping yourself with ergonomic office furniture will also go a long way in keeping you fit and fine. Being one of the world leaders in office furniture manufacturers, we would definitely recommend you to check out the collection at HNI India. At HNI India, we have a range of contemporary and ergonomic office furniture that would make your work from home much more convenient and healthy. We even deliver across major cities in India, delivering right to your doorstep . What more can you possibly ask for!

3. Set clear distinction on your personal & professional life

  1. • Stick to your calendar schedule 

Working from home has habituated us with getting out of bed straight into your laptop and working late in into the night only to doze off in the same bed. However, ideally we should be planning and “respecting” the calendar. When you have one call at 9 in the morning and another at 8 in the evening, you should fit your jogging or workout playing catch with your kids in the appropriate middle. Whatever you do, plan your day and stick to it.

  1. • Respect break times and logouts - If you won’t, nobody else will

Certainly, work should be respected and at times, you may have to go overboard to complete your projects, but don’t mistake into making this your way of life. When at break, enjoy the break, once logged out, respect your private time.

  1. • Spend quality time with your family and yourself - Because family is forever

You may change your jobs, but you probably won’t be changing your family. And after all, isn’t it family you are working for! So, log off your system (once it’s time that is) and have a healthy chat with your family.

HNI India strongly believes in “Work Happy” which is perfectly reflected in the furniture solutions that we thoughtfully design and offer. To order online office furniture, do check out our range of furniture on our online eStore!

Questions to Consider When Implementing a Distributed Work Program

From “I HAVE to go to the office” to “I WANT to go to the office” - this is what the future of workplaces look like.

Distributed work is a model that refers to companies having one or more employees working in different physical locations such as on-site teams, remote employees who work from home, co-working spaces, public spaces, or even employees on the go. The distributed work model has been around for quite a while but found only a few adopters until after the advent of COVID-19. Spurred by the necessity imposed post pandemic and the shifting employee preferences after experiencing the prospects of working from home, businesses around the world today are voluntarily embracing distributed work programs. Today, even as the pandemic wave shows signs of receding, workplaces are beginning to implement a more contemporary version of distributed work as a preparation for future events. 

But it’s certainly not an easy thing to implement. In order for a distributed work strategy to be effective, it must provide balanced support toward work, culture, and business goals, while making the workplace inherently more effective and efficient. Since there is no one formula that works for all, there cannot be a similar outcome for all companies. Many times, to get the right answers, you need to begin by asking the right questions. As such, you need to ask yourself a few whys, whats, whens, and hows before you proceed to transform your workplace into a coherent distributed workforce.

Do I really need a distributed work program? 

This question is particularly important if you are looking at the distributed work program in light of COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, it was crucial for organizations to understand the context for including distributed work in their workplace strategy. Ask yourself:

  • • Why are we considering distributed work?
  • • Will this benefit my organization financially?
  • • What is our experience during the lockdown?
  • • Will my organizational goals and culture be sustained by a distributed workforce?
  • • Will my team & departments be able to complete projects on time?
  • • Will there be effective communication between teams?

When you are sure to go ahead with the plan, you may start taking steps in the forward direction. Managing a distributed team may seem daunting at first, but with the right procedures and tools in place, you can have an effective and engaged team. Start by hiring trustworthy employees since you will not have the option of micromanaging all of them. Outline procedures and clear expectations early on so everyone knows what is expected of them. 

What components need to be considered?

There are several components that need to be identified and integrated into a distributed work program including picking employees, assigning resources, and defining their work peripheries. A distributed work program cannot be implemented indiscriminately to all employees and needs to be well balanced. You need to ask:

  • • Which employees are most suitable to participate in the program?
  • • What are the parameters that define employee participation?
  • • Will employees have access to alternate spaces outside the office?
  • • Will they be provided with ‘work from home furniture’ by the office, or will they have to buy their own set?
  • • What alternate seating arrangements can be used in the office to support distributed workers at times when they work from the office?

In case you are looking to buy office chairs online or are looking for work from home tables, HNI India provides a comprehensive range of home office furniture to fit your work from home needs. On the HNI India estore, you just have to enter your pin code and see if your city is on our delivery list and you order will be delivered at your doorstep!

Defining the components pertaining to your distributed work program

Once the process and its components are set, the specific operational processes, technologies, policies, and training required to support the program need to be finalized. This may include cleaning and safety protocols, program management, occupancy and utilization assessments, communication and feedback mechanisms, etc. It also includes managing virtual teams & team meetings, collaboration and knowledge sharing, communication technology, desk sharing, and access to multiple work location options, workspace location, integration with safety and cleaning protocols, occupancy, and resource utilization. 

You need to take into account the fact that even though nearly everyone worked independently, without an actual office during the COVID pandemic, it doesn't imply that everyone can or wants to work that way in the longer term. Also, implementing a hybrid strategy such as say, 3 days of work from home per week - can also be disruptive to employee productivity. As such, you need to build a strong strategy planned with the help of experts and the participation of employees. This will give them more choice in deciding when and how getting their work done will be more effective. An ideal distributed work program will continue to support engagement, build trust between employees and their managers, and contribute to a positive workplace experience.