Neurodiversity and mental health at work: RingCentral’s employees share their stories

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This story is part of a series recognising Mental Health Awareness Month and how RingCentral supports its employees’ mental health and well-being.

Around one in seven people are neurodiverse, which means that their brains organize and process information differently than most of their counterparts. Neurodiversity presents itself in those with conditions like ADHD, dyslexia, social anxiety, and autism, among others.

These conditions can create challenges at work if employers aren’t understanding of their colleagues’ unique needs. People with ADHD, for example, are 30% more likely to have issues with employment regularly and are “60% more likely to be fired from a job,” according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. 

This story is part of a series about the way RingCentral supports its employees’ mental health. While not everyone who is neurodiverse experiences mental health challenges like anxiety or depression, neurodiverse people’s mental health can be challenged if their employers don’t create a supportive and inclusive work environment.

Neurodiverse employees often stray from standard processes, which can sometimes cause confusion in the workplace, but out-of-the-box thinking has also proven to be a competitive advantage for neurodiverse individuals. For example, autistic people can be incredibly successful in certain professions and are often more productive than their neurotypical colleagues.

Businesses thrive when they make their workplace inclusive of neurodiverse people and support these employees’ well-being and mental health at work. RingCentral is making its workplace more inclusive of neurodiverse individuals and experiencing excellent results.

How Becky thrives with ADHD at work

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that often manifests as an inability to concentrate, and it affects around 4.4% of adults between the ages of 18 and 44, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Becky Hensley, the senior community and social media manager at RingCentral, has learned to manage her ADHD at work by communicating her unique needs to her colleagues.

Throughout her life, Becky struggled with things like organization and following through with tasks. She wasn’t an excellent student in school, she was perpetually messy, and she felt like her mind was often chasing squirrels.

“I always had challenges, but I didn’t have words to put to it,” Becky describes. “I ascribed it to not being good at some things. I saw it as a personality flaw and not something I could control.”

Later on, Becky decided to see a therapist. The therapist tested her for ADHD, and she checked all of the boxes. That was how Becky first learned, at the age of 45, that she had been living with ADHD her entire life. The realization was eye-opening.

Once she saw that her problems stemmed from her neurodiversity and not from some significant character flaw, she was able to ask for the support she needed from her colleagues and to take care of her mental health at work.

“I know that often what makes sense to me in a corporate environment is not how other people operate. I’ve had to pause and think about how to make things work for me in an environment with a lot of other stakeholders,” Becky says. “For a while, it was a source of anxiety.”

How RingCentral supports Becky

At RingCentral, Becky’s colleagues were able to adapt to her unique style of working. They learned that Becky likes to make lots of lists. She often sends her colleagues notes with reminders about what they have to talk about next, even if she doesn’t need them to respond right away. Her desk is covered with pieces of paper with notes and reminders. But her colleagues have learned to respect her processes and not judge her for what may look messy from the outside.

All of these small rituals allow Becky to stay on track and successfully complete her work. And while Becky is aware that her working style might seem chaotic to other people, she appreciates that her colleagues have accepted her unique way of doing things.

“It’s empowering to know that there’s nothing wrong with you, and you can do things in a way that isn’t the norm,” Becky says. “I’m happy to work with people who acknowledge that not everyone has the same work process and that we have to appreciate those who aren’t neurotypical.”

I’m happy to work with people who acknowledge that not everyone has the same work process and that we have to appreciate those who aren’t neurotypical. Click To Tweet

Meanwhile, Becky helped launch a support group at work called SaaSy Women, for women who work in the software industry and want to discuss personal issues and support each other’s mental health at work. The group uses RingCentral’s own communication tools to stay in touch with colleagues working remotely or who are located in different offices.

Becky discussed her diagnosis with the group, and she found that her colleagues were incredibly supportive, even those she doesn’t work with directly.

Over the past year, Becky has been promoted, and she now leads a team. Because RingCentral supported her neurodiversity, she experiences less anxiety, and her ADHD hasn’t held her back from progressing in her career.

Jedd’s full spectrum: autistic and thriving at work

Autistic people often experience hypersensitivity to external stimuli like lights and noise. Other common symptoms include difficulty picking up on social cues or reliance on rituals and repetition.

Jedd Ong, who is leading diversity initiatives at RingCentral, was diagnosed as autistic as a teenager. Over the years, they often found themselves in situations where they needed to advocate for their needs at work.

Gender-diverse people – or those who don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth – are up to six times as likely to be autistic as their cisgender counterparts, according to a study published last year.

Jedd has sensory processing difficulties, which means that their brain doesn’t process information the same way as other people. Bright lights bother them, and they get overstimulated more easily. That can make it challenging to work in a bright and busy office.

“The light that other people find normal, for me, can be really glaring,” Jedd explains.

At RingCentral, Jedd found a workplace where their employer allowed them to adapt their working style to their needs. Sometimes, that means changing the physical environment to feel more comfortable. Other times, it means giving them the freedom to follow a passion intensely when they become hyper-focused on something.

Jedd works remotely to feel more comfortable working in a dark room without bothering colleagues who might need more light. If Jedd needs to take a personal day because they’re overwhelmed, the company accommodates that.

“If my physical body is overwhelmed, I cannot concentrate,” Jedd describes. “So, I tell my colleagues that my body needs a break.”

Jedd also discovered their colleagues at RingCentral are understanding of the ways autism makes them different, especially when it comes to social interactions.

“I can tell my managers that I really don’t have that social part of my brain sometimes,” Jedd said. “I forget about inferences. I ask them to spell things out for me and not say things in a diplomatic way.”

There are lots of people who have been diagnosed as autistic. Some people have ADHD, dyslexia, and even bipolar disorder. We get to discuss the things we share in common, the ways we really differ, and the different ways our brains… Click To Tweet

How RingCentral supports Jedd

Like Becky, Jedd has found the support groups within RingCentral to be helpful for bolstering their mental health at work.

“Having the space to discuss these topics is so important. I love that we have these groups, like our neurodiversity and mental wellness group,” Jedd describes.

“There are lots of people who have been diagnosed as autistic. Some people have ADHD, dyslexia, and even bipolar disorder. We get to discuss the things we share in common, the ways we really differ, and the different ways our brains manifest.”

Some of the company’s leaders are also living with ADHD or dyslexia. Their participation in these support groups has normalized neurodiversity and mental health at work and made people at RingCentral feel more comfortable discussing their differences openly.

Respecting differences improves your workforce and promotes mental health at work

Bringing neurodiverse individuals into your company can be a boon to your business because it ensures you’re not missing an opportunity to hire someone just because they work differently. There are plenty of highly talented people who are also neurodiverse, and the more diverse your team is, the more agile your company.

By accommodating people with a unique working style, RingCentral found that its employees are happier, more successful, and more engaged because their company supports them.

In their role at RingCentral, Jedd ensures that the company hires and retains a diverse workforce. That means making sure that neurodiverse people are treated equally and get promoted at the same rate as their neurotypical colleagues.

Visit RingCentral’s career page to learn more.

Leah Westfall

Author

Leah is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at RingCentral. She creates thought leadership and product-centric content around cloud communication technologies and bettering both the employee and customer experience. She is a customer, product, and employee storyteller and also focuses on diversity initiatives such as women in technology and women in the workforce. Leah is currently based out of Colorado.

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