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Supporting neurodiverse colleagues with Microsoft 365 tools

With an estimated 15% - 20% of the population being neurodiverse, it is likely that a significant number of people within your organisation are affected. 

It is crucial that neurodiverse people within organisations feel supported and empowered to do their best work. While largely this comes from culture and people, technology can be there to support people too. 

With a strong commitment to accessibility and inclusion, Microsoft continue to develop and expand the accessibility features within Microsoft 365. 


Microsoft 365 tools to support neurodiversity

Let’s take a look at the features and tools in Microsoft 365 that can support neurodiverse and neurotypical people in the workplace:


1. Remove distractions within Microsoft Teams 

Distractions – both visual and auditory - can be a huge challenge for people who are neurodiverse. Often making concentration and productivity at work difficult. 

Within Microsoft 365, there are a number of ways to combat this through built in tools. Especially in Microsoft Teams, where many of these distractions typically take place.  

To help manage distractions in Microsoft Teams, you can: 

  • Toggle notifications on/off completely  
  • Set your notifications to hide during calls and meetings, allowing you to stay present during the most important conversations  
  • Mute notifications from certain channels or chats, if you are feeling overwhelmed  
  • Toggle on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, which automatically mutes all notifications and helps boost focus  
  • Customise your status message to let your colleagues know how you are feeling 

Microsoft have a whole host of support available for people who feel distracted within Microsoft Teams. You can read the full Microsoft blog on limiting distractions here 


2. Use Microsoft To-Do to say organised 

When there’s lots to do at work, it can be stressful and overwhelming; something that is heightened even more for people who are neurodiverse. To do lists can be a great way for anyone – regardless of ability – to stay on top of tasks and remain focused. Within Microsoft 365, there is a simple way to do this digitally.  

Microsoft To-Do keeps all of your outstanding tasks in one place, allowing you to stay organised. It’s a fantastic way to manage your day, and keep on track. 

Check out this video to understand what you can do with To-Do:


3. Set aside dedicated focus time within your working week

In the world of hybrid work, we are more connected than ever before. While largely positive, this can lead to constant interruptions and distractions. It’s important that everyone gets some uninterrupted time during their work week to focus on completing tasks, generating new ideas, or even just getting those little bits of admin done.  

This is where setting aside dedicated time for focusing can really help. 

To do this, simply navigate to Viva Insights within Microsoft Teams and click on ‘Wellbeing.’ Within here, there will be a section which prompts you to ‘Set quiet time.’  

Click this, and you can configure your quiet time to be automatically scheduled within your working week. Once scheduled, your notifications will be muted and your status on Microsoft Teams will show as ‘Focusing.’ 

You can also set this up directly in Outlook, by following the steps outlined in our handy video guide: 


4. Read content without distractions while improving confidence, with Immersive Reader

People who are neurodivergent can often struggle with reading. This can be due to issues with concentration, distractions, or could even be visual.  

Microsoft 365 has an incredible tool which can help support this, called Immersive Reader. 

For those who may not have used it before, Immersive Reader is a free tool included across the Microsoft 365 suite to help with reading comprehension and confidence. It combines well-known techniques with accessible features like ‘enhanced dictation’ and ‘font spacing’ to help improve reading for anyone regardless of age or ability. Take a look at the list of tools available within Immersive Reader: 

A table showing the benefits of immersive reader by Microsoft

(Image from Microsoft.com)

To get started and start benefitting from this incredible tool find out more about Immersive Reader via Microsoft.com. 


How to ensure your teams are using Microsoft 365 accessibility features 

To start, it is important that organisations actually allow for these tools to be used, by keeping settings and personalisation open and available within Microsoft 365 and IT admin.  

However just as crucially, organisation-wide understanding of these tools is important to boost use and confidence of use. Ensure your teams feel empowered in the workplace with the right knowledge, by providing learning opportunities and internal comms around the tools available.  

It is up to all of us to ensure people with disabilities feel comfortable at work, which starts by creating an open environment. Where people feel able to bring their full selves to work, safe to ask questions, and empowered to learn more.