‘Green flags’ from a neurodivergent-friendly workplace

People working in an office


Sarah Fisher, from Big Lemon shares her thoughts and experiences on the ‘green flags’ she’d look for in a neurodivergent-friendly workplace.


She did a law degree (though never wanted to be a lawyer) and an MA in creative writing, before finally discovering a talent for coding in her late thirties. Sarah is late-diagnosed autistic.

Here, Sarah shares her thoughts and experiences on the ‘green flags’ she’d look for in a neurodivergent-friendly workplace.


While it’s positive and important that these formal steps are being made, in my experience, there’s so much more that makes a genuine difference to my day-to-day working life.

Like many autistic women of my generation, my autism went unrecognised as a child. It was only while seeking support for my son that I went on to discover my own neurodivergence. As you might expect, my initial experiences of the workplace were largely negative. Sensory overload, autistic masking and mental fatigue often left me struggling in a typical office environment, but until I discovered that I myself wasn’t typical, I didn’t have the tools to understand why.

Fast-forward to my late thirties, and having retrained towards a new career in coding, I prepared myself to re-enter the job market. I’d recently had my formal diagnosis and looked forward to the job seeking process with the benefit of this new understanding – a new set of criteria by which I would be assessing employers on how well they’d fit with me (just as much as them assessing how I would fit with them).

We’re used to thinking about the red flags that warn us off certain people and places – but what were the green flags that I was looking for in a neurodiverse-friendly workplace? What were those obvious signs, from the outside, that meant I knew I’d feel at home and thrive?


One of the first green flags was how differently the recruitment ad was worded. My future employer was open to candidates who might not have all the ‘essentials’ if they fitted the culture. That’s really important to people, like me, who tend to take job ads on face value – and rule ourselves out if we can’t 100% fulfil every skill, experience or qualification listed. It came across as more welcoming and approachable, but more importantly, I felt like it gave me the permission and confidence to apply.

Then we came to the selection process – Big Lemon typically doesn’t use ‘observed coding’ as a way to test job candidates. Yes, I was given a timed project which assessed how I prioritised and was able to work in code sandbox, but I wasn’t being watched and all instructions were in the written form. Any issues with auditory processing that I might have experienced (a dysfunction which is more noticeable under stress) could be set aside. I found this to be a more equitable and human approach, which took account of the additional (and unnecessary) levels of stress that being under observation adds for many people, whether neurodivergent or otherwise.


Big Lemon is a proud pioneer of the Four Day Working Week – another big green flag for anyone who struggles with sensory overload. The extra day away from work to recharge would be invaluable for anyone, but is especially helpful for those, like me, who tend towards autistic burnout if not careful. Couple that with the ability to work from home, and it’s much less draining than a standard 9-to-5. I get as much work down in four days from home as I would in five days at the office.

At home, I can control everything from the lighting to the temperature, allowing me to focus on the task at hand. I’m not under pressure to wear itchy “professional” attire or to socialise too much (although I do enjoy doing so, I tend to need time to recuperate afterwards). I can engage in stimming without awkward questions. I even have my non-official therapy dog on hand.

While there’s been a rush in many places to return to face-to-face meetings, our company culture has preserved the online approach which became the norm during the pandemic. There’s many positives to this for neurodivergent people, regardless of what certain famous entrepreneurs have claimed. It means there’s fewer external distractions. And there are tools available for recording and transcribing so I can take time to reflect and playback conversations, if I find I’m having a bad day. I can also request written instructions alongside verbal ones when needed.

Our company culture is very open to difference and approachable in terms of accommodations – there’s no issue with using a Slack status to say I need some mental headspace if a morning of meetings has left my head in a spin. It’s acceptable to look after your wellbeing, and fellow employees will respect your space, knowing that you’ll only return stronger.

Ultimately the biggest green flag I could find was a culture that you could see, even from the outside, was supportive, flexible, open and inclusive. As someone who prioritises social justice and equality – in common with many other neurodivergent people, I think – finding an employer who was BCorp accredited with a clear ‘tech with purpose’ mission really demonstrated that cultural alignment.

One final reflection on green flags for neurodivergent people – is that they’re actually qualities most employees would welcome. Studies have shown that neurodiversity in the workplace gives it a competitive advantage. Don’t we all want employers who recognise the value of diversity and difference, who appreciate that small, human-centric adjustments can make a big difference to wellbeing, and that sometimes we all just need some space?


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