Interview by Grow Remote Edinburgh
“Every person deserves the right to dream of a positive future. I do my wee bit to help with that.”: An interview with Ross Pollard.
Join us for our online meetup with Ross on May 20, 2020.
Grab your seat here.
Ross is a diversity and inclusion specialist with a background in disability, neurodiversity and mental health. He now leads Disabling Barriers with AAI EmployAbility, an educational program he created, aimed at better engaging businesses on how to become more inclusive in their recruitment and workplace practices.
Tell us about yourself, Ross.
I am neurodiverse guy from Leith with ADHD. I am now an inclusion consultant and training to be a psychological therapist in my spare time. Having faced barriers in mainstream education and in accessing employment helped shape why I care about creating a more inclusive, tolerant society, so nobody, whether child or adult, has to lose out on life opportunities because of closed mindsets. Every person deserves the right to dream of a positive future. I do my wee bit to help with that.
At what point did you decide to start working remotely? What made you take the decision?
Working remotely wasn’t my decision. I had repeatedly struggled after graduating to secure a stable job and became deeply frustrated by modern recruitment processes. This led me to speak about how it was modern recruitment processes that disabled people, rather than the other way round. This got me on the radar of a company called AAI EmployAbility and secured me a job researching the barriers neurodiverse and disabled graduates experience accessing employment. By chance the entire team all work remotely.
How can companies become more welcoming to neurodiverse employees?
I think companies firstly have to understand what neurodiversity means. Awareness is key. Neurodiversity isn’t just a rebrand of autism as I sometimes hear. It is about recognising that every person has different cognitive capacities, and within that, certain people diverge more so, which is why we have labels like autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic or ADHD. To be welcoming we need to make sure companies are making adjustments that allow neurodiverse employees to work to the best of their ability.
How neurodiversity presents new opportunities to businesses?
Neurodiverse people have brains that are wired differently. They can approach problems from unique angles and are often very innovative and entrepreneurial. If you look at the high concentration of people with autistic and ADHD traits in silicon valley, they have contributed hugely to modern technology and how we communicate. I would like to see businesses here in Scotland harness that talent too.
How do you think remote work can help neurodiverse people?
Remote working is a great adjustment that can take away a lot of anxieties that some neurodiverse people can feel when working in say an office environment. Often those anxieties are not work specific. If we just take one example, it is well documented that many autistic people have sensory sensitivities to light and sound. Well, working at home you can adjust the lights easily. You don’t need to speak to a manager first.
What are some of the difficulties you face working remotely?
The challenge for me at the start was becoming a lot more self-organised. I had to get better at organising digital folders and making sure others in my team could access them. Working remotely pushes you to structure your workflow, because nobody else does it for you. There are times when I fail to do something and I have to then reorganise something else to fit it in. But that is actually a great skill to get better at.