The Working Brain is a research project about Neurodiversity and Mental Health in design and the built environment.

Why are we doing this?

We are designers who want to understand how space impacts human behaviour, well-being, comfort and productivity beyond the neurotypical group of people we habitually design for. Our teams at Hames Sharley and GroupGSA are researching Neurodiversity and Mental Health and how we solve for this in workplace design (and further afield, e.g. in education design) to enable “success” and “inclusion”.

It is estimated that around 18% of the population is neurodivergent, which means they process information in a different way (source: Workplace Dyslexia & Specific Learning Difficulties – Productivity, Engagement and Wellbeing by Janette Beetham, Leyla Okhai). In Australia, it is estimated that 45% of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime (source: Beyond Blue).

We started this research project because we want to test ideas and experiences, engage with the community and capture data that can be translated into positive outcomes in the built environment. We are researching from the viewpoint of the designer, and our multidisciplinary team includes a psychologist and psychiatrist. We also have personal lived experiences which  motivates us to undertake this research.

Presently, we are researching the following, however, our research in the future will not be limited to only these conditions:

As a part of the research, we have developing a Sensory Profile Questionnaire and a Workplace Comfort Survey and we invite your contributions.

About the research team

Our research team is comprised of designers working in the field of architecture and interior design, and collaborators include educators, psychologists, and autism advocates and activists. Our aim is to learn so we can become better designers and to create inclusive spaces that allow a diverse range of people to work at their very best.

Learn more about our research team and collaborators on our Team page.

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains in context of a differing approach to learning and mental health as a result of variation in the human genome. The term was first created by Australian sociologist, Judy Singer, in the late 1990s. It includes other conditions such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia etc.

Mental Health

Mental Health is a person’s condition describing their psychological and emotional well-being. It encompasses how individuals think, feel, and behave, as well as their ability to cope with life's challenges, handle stress, maintain relationships, and make decisions. Mental health is an essential component of overall health and affects every aspect of a person's life, including their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and interactions with others.


We have discovered that many neurodivergent conditions co-exist and are impacted by the built environment, and also that many people with neurodivergence may be destined for mental illnesses like anxiety or depression. Discomfort, non acceptance and being misunderstood fall into why this may result. We hope to positively impact comfort within the built environment through design, therefore contributing to reducing anxiety in the workplace.

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