Leyla Okhai: Diverse Minds, Mental Wellbeing & The Workplace

In this episode I’m speaking with Leyla Okhai. Leyla is the founder and CEO of Diverse Minds. Leyla is the co-author of an important study on neurodiversity in the workplace and has over 14 years experience implementing diversity, inclusion and equality practices.

Leyla introduced me to the term neurodiversity, she has a rich and varied understanding of what this means and why it is crucial for organisations to manage it appropriately. This is why I wanted to get her on the show.

In todays show we discuss several things including

  • The public health crisis hiding in plain sight
  • The “Menu” metaphor that Leyla uses to illustrate the importance of an inclusive workplace
  • The relationship between neurodiversity and the business case for diversity, and much much more

Here’s some of the wisdom that Leyla shared:

The Public Health Crisis Hiding in Plain Sight

Leyla outlines the staggering statistics that demonstrate how pervasive issues of mental health are in modern society. Leyla explains how there is a need for organisations to address the structural cause of mental ill health and not just focus on individual outcomes:

“Why aren’t we looking at the systemic issues and what is causing mental ill health within the workplace”

The Negative Bias of Mental Health

Leyla explains how mental health as a concept is often assumed to have a negative meaning. Leyla highlights how “physical health” is considered by most to describe a positive state of health, however “mental health” is often linked to a negative state of health:

“I see someone running for physical health and for mental health I might see something blank or not really see anything or some people jump to diagnosis”

Neurodiversity: The Stick vs. the Carrot

Leyla describes how the business case for managing neurodiversity is driven by an organisation’s legal obligations. Leyla explains how organisations are legally required to provide adequate working conditions for employees and this may require making adjustments to accommodate neurodivergent employees:

“Legally you have to put reasonable adjustments, workplace adjustments in, for an individual in a timely fashion…”

HOW SUMMARY SLIDES

If you want a quick snapshot of what the episode is about, I’ve created some slides that you may find interesting

THE KEY TAKEAWAY

There is no health without mental health

Show notes

Here are some selected links to for the resources and reports I discuss in the episode.

Leyla Okhai Linkedin

Diverse Minds Twitter 

Diverse Minds Facebook group 

Business in the Community (BITC)

Workplace Dyslexia & Specific Learning Difficulties—Productivity, Engagement and Well-Being Article

Leeds University Mental Health Difficulties 

Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 

Fiona Daniel 

Sonia Meggie

Steve Silberman: Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity 

Temple Grandin

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