NuGen Properties

Neurodivergence appears typical in construction

Jenny McLaughlin, a project manager at Heathrow Airport and APM corporate member, who has ADHD and dyslexia, says project professionals can “provide the mandate to create a more systematic inclusive world”

The Association for Project Management (APM) has found that 46% of professionals in the construction sector described themselves as neurodivergent, compared to 45% who said they were not; 7% preferred not to say and 2% did not know.

Neurodiversity is a term coined by a sociologist rather than a medical professional as an umbrella term for a range of neurological conditions that including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia, Tourette’s syndrome and dyslexia.

APM commissioned research company Censuswide to survey more than 1,000 project professionals working in various UK sectors including construction.

In total across all sectors surveyed, 31% considered themselves to be neurodivergent. For the construction sector, the figure stood higher at 46%.

Some 96% of the construction sector respondents said they have informed their employer of their neurodivergence, in contrast to the survey’s overall average of 78%.

Meanwhile, 88% said their employer, once notified, had made changes to the workplace or ways of working to accommodate their neurodivergence. This was also higher than the survey’s 81% average.

Barriers facing project professionals in all sectors included ‘not feeling comfortable’ about telling their bosses (40% agreed) and ‘not seeing the point’ (23% agreed). One in four (25%) said they intended to do so, and 12% said they did not have an official diagnosis.

Association for Project Management chief executive Adam Boddison said: “Our research shows almost half (46%) of project professionals in construction consider themselves to be neurodivergent, which is a significant proportion and far higher than the cross-sector average of 31% in our latest survey.

“Employers in construction which embrace neurodivergence not only foster a culture of inclusivity and send out a powerful message that people with neurological differences are valued, but also benefit from unique strengths and perspectives that contribute to creativity, problem-solving and increased productivity. It can also unlock valuable insights into customers and stakeholders, leading to improved services and outcomes. Diversity in all its guises adds value to organisations.

“Overall, the importance of encouraging a neurodivergent workforce cannot be overstated. Individuals must feel empowered and supported to do their best work, and once employers have created optimal conditions, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated, leading to higher levels of job satisfaction, retention rates and overall success across the built environment.”

The survey also found that 73% of construction respondents agreed with the view that the project profession is one that is welcoming and supportive of people who are neurodivergent – a figure also higher than the survey’s average (64%). Another 18% neither agreed or disagreed, and 9% disagreed.

Jenny McLaughlin is a project manager at Heathrow Airport who has ADHD and dyslexia. She said: “Many neurodivergent individuals have experienced barriers and discrimination in some form. But as a project professional, you can provide the mandate to create a more systematic inclusive world – it is a challenge to relish.”

She said that “all of our brains are wired differently, as unique as a fingerprint…. There is no one right way to be wired, but society has been constructed to favour the majority, or neurotypical, which creates barriers to those of us who think differently.”

According to this survey, however, the neurotypical are (marginally) in the minority among construction professionals, effectively making the divergent the typical, with the neurotypical actually the divergent ones.

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