Neurodiversity in the tech industry

Neurodiversity in the tech industry

A major new global study suggests an urgent need for more equitable and inclusive workplaces.

Illustration by Modern Activity, base photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The largest global workplace survey on neurodiversity to date in the tech sector reveals that nearly half of neurodivergent employees feel impacted by their neurodivergent conditions, at least on most days, in the workplace. A quarter disclosed that they were impacted every day. The study highlights key challenges for neurodivergent employees and points to improvements in the workplace environment, culture and systems that would make workplaces more accessible and inclusive. 

The study explores the intricate social dynamics within company culture and workplace systems that impact neurodivergent individuals’ experiences. It was carried out by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) and Inner Ambitions on behalf of the #ChangeTheFace Alliance.

Read the study

#ChangeTheFace is a collaborative initiative uniting leading global tech companies, since 2021, to champion diversity, equality/equity, and inclusion within the tech industry. Four companies from the Alliance took part in the study: Colt, Nokia, Samsung, and Vodafone. 

The research incorporates findings from an online survey with 2,176 respondents across the four participating companies, with 1,425 neurotypical, 562 neurodivergent, and 189 who were unsure or preferred not to disclose. The researchers also conducted a systematic literature review, validation workshop and three focus groups with employees in the four companies. 

How do workplace environments impact neurodivergent employees? 

The new research found that company culture and workplace systems can create barriers for neurodivergent people throughout their employee journey, from recruitment to everyday working life, and career advancement. 

Notably, more than half of those who self-reported as neurodivergent, refrained from disclosing their condition(s), because they lacked a formal diagnosis (55%) or did not see the value in disclosing it (53%). The researchers suggest that this means companies should create organisational environments that make support available, regardless of whether staff have disclosed their neurodivergence or whether they have a formal diagnosis. Supportive working conditions would also help in making disclosure and seeking support worth the effort and risk, the researchers said. 

Four pivotal findings 

The research highlighted four key findings for the tech sector, relevant to socio-technical systems thinking, that could support the development of more neurodiverse, inclusive, and accessible workplaces where all employees can thrive.

  1. The need for more psychological safety and trust: Organisations must foster psychological safety and trust to make workplaces more supportive of neurodivergent employees’ mental well-being, minimising the need to mask. 
  2. Workplace adjustments exist in a wider social context: Organisations need to critically evaluate the impact of their culture on neurodivergent employees and make the necessary adjustments to provide effective support. Many impediments to neurodiversity, equity, and inclusion are rooted in human behaviour. 
  3. Systemic barriers to support: Support should be accessible without a formal diagnosis or disclosure, promoting neurodiverse inclusivity and accessibility. Organisations should proactively offer support options to make the workplace more accessible for neurodivergent individuals.
  4. Neurodiversity equity and inclusion hinges on supportive allyship: Organisations must invest in awareness training to foster a culture of allyship and understanding of neurodiversity.


“This was a substantial piece of work and on a topic which seems crucial to the future of the workplace. Supporting neurodiversity equity and inclusion are so important if we want to be in a world where differences are recognised, celebrated and supported. As ever, the best support is rooted in shifts in organisational systems and culture, so we are delighted with the positive reception of this research from the industry. The findings really underscore the urgency for systemic changes within the tech sector and beyond.”

Dr David Drabble, Senior Researcher and Consultant, TIHR

“Our mission at #ChangeTheFace is clear — to work together as an industry to catalyse positive change for a more diverse and inclusive tech sector. Our new insights aim to support the industry to drive positive change, so we can take action to remove barriers in the workplace for neurodivergent employees and create a more accessible and inclusive future for everyone.” 

Serpil Timuray, CEO Europe Cluster, Vodafone Group and #ChangeTheFace Alliance Chair

Selected survey findings with workplace culture implications 

1. Reasons why neurodivergent employees don’t disclose

More than half of those who self-reported as neurodivergent, did not disclose their condition(s), because they lacked a formal diagnosis (55%) or did not see the value in disclosing it (53%). Around a quarter or respondents cited a fear of stigma (27%) or reduced career opportunities (24%). 

2. Mental health

The survey found that on average, neurodivergent employees rated their mental health worse than neurotypical colleagues, with 15% of neurodivergent individuals rating their mental health as poor or very poor, compared to 2% for neurotypical colleagues. 

3. Findings related to asking for adjustments

Only 9% of neurodivergent employees had requested an adjustment or support at work, with the majority of those disclosing their condition. Of the majority that did not ask for adjustments, 61% did not think they needed any. And a third (32%) were worried about how it would look, and 29% did not know what to ask for. 

4. Workplace barriers

Neurodivergent employees also cited a range of challenges they typically faced at work, ranging from navigating the hiring process, day-to-day work and social interactions, and transitioning careers. All of which are undergirded by the need for stronger allyship. 

  • Hiring — In every area surveyed, neurodivergent employees found the hiring process more challenging than neurotypical employees. Nearly four in ten (39%) found salary-related discussions challenging, along with typical recruitment situations like attending face-to-face interviews (21%). 
  • Workplace interactions — Around half of neurodivergent employees felt overwhelmed by distractions in the office (49%) compared to 14% for neurotypical employees. Other challenges included being unable to mentally prepare fully for meetings (30%), not feeling valued (25%) or included (18%) or feeling judged by colleagues (19%). 

Fig.1 workplace interactions

  • Day-to-day — Neurodivergent employees identified their biggest day-to-day challenges as managing workload (46%), looking after their well-being (44%), having long meetings without breaks (43%) and time management (38%).

Fig.2 day-to-day challenges

  • Career transitions — A smaller proportion of neurodivergent employees had been promoted (42%), compared to 56% of neurotypical employees.
  • Allyship — Overall, about two-thirds (64%) of neurodivergent respondents wished for more effort and allyship from their neurotypical colleagues to understand neurodiversity. 46% of respondents said they wanted to have ‘unwritten rules’ in the office explained to them, and 44% wished that their colleagues would recognise when to leave them alone. At the same time, neurotypical employees also recognised the need for more awareness training (78%), better knowledge of available accommodations for their neurodivergent colleagues (53%) and more senior leadership role-modelling of inclusive behaviours (44%).  

Fig.3 Desired allyship support

The #ChangeTheFace Alliance is urging organisations to reevaluate and reconfigure their ways of working to foster more neurodiverse, equitable, and inclusive environments.

Click the link above to download and read the report Neurodiversity in the tech sector: Global research on accessibility, barriers and how companies can do better — A report for the #ChangeTheFace Alliance, December 2023. By Dr David Drabble, Elyce Cole, Anna Sophie Hahne, Lanre Sulola and Dr Joe Cullen.

For media inquiries and information, please contact Lucy Lloyd: l.lloyd@tavinstitute.org

Subscribe to our newsletter

The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations | 63 Gee Street, London, EC1V 3RS
hello@tavinstitute.org | +44 20 7417 0407
Charity No.209706 | Design & build by Modern Activity