In today’s fast-paced work environment, employees are expected to perform their tasks with speed and accuracy while under pressure. For individuals with dyslexia, this can lead to anxiety and stress as they struggle with difficulties in working memory, auditory memory, organization, planning, time management, sequencing, and following processes and systems. In this blog post, we will explore some of the challenges experienced by people with dyslexia in the workplace and provide strategies and support that can help.
Working Memory Difficulties
Working memory is the ability to hold a short amount of information in your mind and then do something with that information. It is used for activities such as mental arithmetic. For individuals with dyslexia, working memory difficulties can pose a significant challenge. Fortunately, there are several strategies that can help:
- Splitting information into chunks of 2-3 pieces of information: This strategy involves breaking down complex information into smaller, more manageable pieces. For example, splitting a phone number into blocks of 2-3 numbers.
- Focus on your preferred learning style: Some people are good at remembering what they see or read (visual), others what they hear (auditory), and for others, remembering what they do (kinesthetic). Try to play to your strengths and let your colleagues know your preferred way to remember information.
- Use mind maps: Mind maps incorporate pictures with words and signify relationships and links. This aids memory by incorporating different areas of the brain. See earlier blog posts on the advantages and techniques of creating mind maps.
- Write everything down: Our working memory can become overloaded when we have too much information that we are trying to remember. Reduce the burden on your memory by writing everything down on to-do lists, post-it notes, or in the notes section of an electronic device. Continuously look back over your notes to update them and remind yourself of outstanding tasks.
Difficulties in reading, recalling, or comprehending what has been read is frequently a difficulty for people with dyslexia. The requirements of reading tasks can vary considerably between different job roles. However, there are some common strategies that can help to support reading difficulties at work:
- Learn skim reading techniques: Being able to scan text for key words and messages, using a highlighter to pick these out, can aid memory. This is because rather than trying to remember the content word for word, skim reading means that you get the overall theme and essence of the text.
- Identify what to read: If a document is not particularly important, read the first line or two of each paragraph. If it is of no interest, move onto the next paragraph.
- Find a quiet place to read important documents: If a document is important, find the time to read it in a quiet place without distractions, such as over lunch or at home.
The writing requirements can vary between different job roles. It can be the case that a person with dyslexia progresses throughout their career without having to complete many written tasks, only to be promoted or have their job restructured to find that the writing requirements of their new role are quite substantial. There are some supportive strategies that can help someone cope with the demands of written tasks at work:
- Use a clear, understandable structure: Written documents must be written using a clear, understandable structure. Outline what you will be writing about to ensure you are including all your main points.
- Keep sentences short and to the point: It is better to have three short sentences than one long, rambling one.
- Use bullet points: Especially when summarizing or introducing the main themes.
- Use an effective spell checker: Sometimes, spell checkers are unable to identify the misspelt word, or suggests an incorrect word as an alternative. Instead, type the word or phrase into Google which has an effective spell checker
- Reread your written work, ideally with a gap of a few hours or a day between when you have written it. Alternatively ask someone to proof read your work, or use a reading tool. Natural Reader (https://www.naturalreaders.com/) is a free text reader that can help you to check your written work.
Sequencing and organising tasks are integral to any work environment. But for people with dyslexia, these tasks can be challenging, making it difficult for them to follow procedures, routines, and work process stages. This can have an adverse impact on their ability to work efficiently and meet deadlines. However, there are strategies that can be employed to improve sequencing abilities:
- Creating visual flowcharts of key processes is one such strategy. These flowcharts provide a step-by-step guide that can be easily referenced when working on a task.
- Templates and checklists can also be useful for tasks where the same set of procedures must be followed repeatedly.
Planning and organising
Planning and organising are equally critical skills in a busy work environment. People with dyslexia often struggle with these skills, which can lead to spending more time on tasks than necessary. Therefore, it is essential to develop techniques and systems that support these skills. Some of the strategies to improve planning and organisation include:
- Efficiency through planning: Spend a few minutes at the start of each day considering the fastest and most effective way to complete the day’s tasks.
- Timing: Plan ahead so that demanding tasks are completed when you are at your most alert and productive.
- Colour coding: Use simple colour coding to prioritise jobs based on their importance and deadline. Red for high-priority tasks, amber for less urgent tasks, and green for low-priority tasks.
- To-do lists: Use to-do lists for both daily tasks and long-term projects. Regularly review and tick off completed tasks.
- IT systems: Develop IT systems, such as saving emails into separate folders, to save time searching for information later on.
Employers are generally understanding of employees’ difficulties unless they adversely impact their work quality. If you are experiencing difficulties that affect your ability to complete your role at work, it is advisable to speak to your employer to discuss the support that can be provided to help you. A workplace assessment can be a good starting point to receive specialist support and recommendations. For more information on this, read this post: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/workplace-assessments/
For advice on completing job application forms, read this blog: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/application-advice-for-dyslexic-job-seekers/
And for interview tips, see here: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/interview-advice-for-dyslexic-job-seekers/
This post has advice for employers of people with dyslexia: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/an-employers-guide-to-dyslexia/
To speak to a dyslexia assessor, contact us: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/#request-form