Good practice at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO)
The IPO, based in Newport, Wales, is the UK government body responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights including patents, designs, trade marks and copyright.
IPO has a number of staff with neurodiverse differences, including dyslexia and autism spectrum disorders.
Its in-house Diversity Group recently focussed on neurodiversity, with an emphasis on autism spectrum disorders. Working with the National Autistic Society (NAS) and Autism Spectrum Connections Cymru (ASCC), they provided:
- team training on working with people with neurodiverse difference
- individual training on workplace engagement
- specific training for managers on how best to engage with their employees who have neurodiverse differences.
Reasonable adjustments successfully introduced for individuals with autism spectrum disorder include:
- reduced productivity targets
- a structured workflow process, including timings; being given clear instructions over what work to do when
- statements to help with decision points, for example “If…” “Then…”.
- the introduction of coping strategies: for example a phone call strategy whereby a caller is asked for their case number and a summary of the issue and a time to call back is agreed with them. This strategy can also benefit neurotypical members
- making sure that meetings are scheduled in advance and not moved so that the individual can plan their day
- provision of coloured lenses, desk mats to reduce glare (the standard desks are bright white), ability to lower lighting and by contrast, provision of a very bright desk lamp
- noise cancelling headphones, quiet desk location, screens around desks to reduce noise and distractions, access to a quiet space
Prospect’s branch at IPO report that workplace assessments by experts, and a willingness from the employer to try different options, are key for success since the reasonable adjustments provided for one person will not necessarily be appropriate for someone else with the same condition. The adjustments set out above have worked well where individual needs have been taken into account.