Dyslexia in the workplace is not new, and with dyslexia affecting approximately 10% of the British population, around 2.9 million workers are living with this learning difficulty, according to the BDA.
This means it’s incredibly likely that a current or future employee will have dyslexia. But what to do about it?
Dyslexia in the workplace
Telling an employer they have a learning disadvantage can be daunting and hold back those with dyslexia from asking for help. This occasionally means their behaviours are misinterpreted as a lack of ability and dedication. In fact, people with dyslexia can bring as many strengths and qualities to a business as those without, which means it’s incredibly important to encourage people to speak up about it.
The common symptoms of dyslexia include struggling to formulate thoughts quickly enough to participate in conversations and confusing words within sentences and letters within words. People with dyslexia in the workplac also struggle to schedule work, make deadlines and, recollect and record the contents of meetings and messages.
Recognising these signs and encouraging an open conversation about dyslexia in the workplace will ensure that those living with it can reach their full potential while feeling supported by their employers.
Here are 10 ways in which the wellbeing experts at CABA say employers can support employees with dyslexia in the workplace:
- Set up a mentoring scheme
This ensures employees feel more comfortable talking about learning difficulties and empowered to come forward and ask for help. A mentoring programme can offer a range of tailored advice and support for anyone who may have anxiety, mental health or any other form of learning difficulty in the workplace, not just dyslexia.
2. Diagnostic Assessment
Diagnostic assessments can help employers understand the specific needs of employers with dyslexia. These can be arranged via the BDA, who could also help to provide advice not previously considered.
3. Create dyslexia-friendly content
Once you recognise an employee has dyslexia, small changes can be made to help them manage work content. For example, using an easily readable font such as Arial or Comic Sans, as small or italic fonts can cause letters to appear more crowded. It may also be useful to use headings to create structure and to avoid background patterns or pictures as they could distract from the text.
4. Adapt your communication style
It’s worthwhile asking any dyslexic employees what their preferred method of communication is. This is because if the individual is a visual learner you could work using a mind map or flow chart, to best get across important points. Remember, everyone works differently, so ask the individual what works best, to ensure you get the most out of them.
The British Dyslexic Association and the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre offer a range of training services to ensure that both parties are mutually benefitting. So, ensure you set aside enough budget to invest in resources to help aid people with dyslexia.
6. Assistive technology
Several technological devices can make work life easier for those with dyslexia. For example, speech recognition software allows speech to be converted into text, and vice versa – cutting out the task of reading and writing which can often take much longer for a dyslexic employee.
7. Raise awareness
Why not run a dyslexia awareness course for all staff, using a qualified and experienced specialist on dyslexia in the workplace. This will help to clarify any misconceptions about dyslexia and help to make all employees feel comfortable in dealing with it.
8. Alternative workspace
Loud and busy environments can make it hard for dyslexic workers to concentrate, so to help them, it can be beneficial to offer alternative work environments. For example, allowing these employees to use a meeting room, to help them focus when they need to. If this is not possible, then provide headphones or earplugs as an alternative.
9. Encourage the use of calendars and alarms
Dyslexics can benefit from seeing things more visually, so using calendars and alarms can help to track time more visually. In turn, this will help employees stay on schedule, and help them to plan their day and week. The use of diary invites, and desk calendars, can also be useful reminders of important deadlines.
10. Specialist stationery
Black text on white paper can be problematic as the whiteness can be dazzling and make it harder to read. Using paper of softer tones like yellow or pink may be preferable. As well as thicker pens, like gel pens, which helps team members better understand their writing.
Organisations need to accept that everyone works differently and must look to adapt to individual needs – because those with dyslexia will range in their abilities. Employers should create an open and honest environment to allow employees to talk freely about dyslexia and other learning difficulties. This will benefit the whole organisation with all its employees better able to perform and be productive with the correct support.