8 Tips for Employers of Autistic Individuals
This blog aims to give employers who have autistic individuals working within their team some guidance around how to best support them. In properly supporting autistic individuals this benefits both the individual and the employer, as a happier workforce can lead to increased productivity and improve income. The following points, whilst not extensive, may help autistic people to enjoy their work and thrive:
Flexibility around working hours.
Whilst this isn’t always possible, this can greatly help to reduce stress and anxiety for them. For example, they may struggle when commuting during rush hour and this could even lead to them leaving their role because of it. Another very real example could be that they struggle to get up early in a morning or prefer getting up really early. Whilst most people would dismiss this, by letting them work when they are most productive, in turn this could benefit the company.
Be clear in your communication.
If you want them to complete certain tasks help them to understand what you are asking of them. Wherever communication isn’t clear this could cause anxiety or stress for them or they could act out on their frustrations in multiple ways. They may struggle without structure. They may also take things very literal, so try to mean what you say.
Speed and processing information.
They may learn skills at a different rate to others and may need extra time to process what is being said to them or what is happening around them. If you allow them extra time to learn at their own pace they are more likely to succeed and to provide better work for you. Please remember that not everyone progresses at the same rate.
Reducing sensory stimuli.
By doing this, you can greatly improve the chances of them having good wellbeing levels and being more productive. This could simply come in the form of moving where they work. Many autistic individuals struggle with lights, sounds, and smells, and so these senses can distract them from what they are supposed to be doing. Lights can be too bright, sounds can seem deafening even if not to others, and smells can be intolerable. Simple adaptations can be made and they can make a big difference for them.
Team meetings and training.
For any team meetings that you have, please bear in mind that they may have anxiety and be suffering from sensory overload. They may be concerned about how they are coming across to their peers, struggle with being around more people, or trying to adapt to different surroundings if different to their normal working space. It helps to give them prior notice about any meetings that you have, as this can give them extra time to prepare mentally. For any training that you provide please also think about allowing them time to process what is being taught to them (especially when they are around others & sensory overload), processing times, and if you test them on anything they may be under further stress or anxiety.
If they need a few minutes to steady themselves or switch off from everything around them, it’s much better to let them do this as opposed to forcing them to work through it. Doing the latter will only increase the chances of them facing burnout or being ill. Doing things like monitoring them going to the toilet or timing their breaks to the second will not help, and will only increase their anxiety levels.
Changes to systems, their working environment, the people they work with, or any other change whether big or little, can make a serious impact on an autistic person. It is important to recognise this and how each change could affect them. In all cases it’s always advisable to give as much notice as possible. Whilst that doesn’t mean that the individual will be completely fine with the change it can at least alleviate some of the anxiety that they might face. If there is a change to a system that the company uses this could disrupt their own work more than the average person. If there is a change to their working environment, perhaps they have moved desk for example, this could cause them a lot of internal pain because they are used to things being a set way. If they have to work with different people they may find it really hard to adjust and may miss the old people they worked with. In all cases try to reassure them and allow them extra time to adjust to the changes. Explain to them why the changes are necessary and the benefits of them.
Social queues and office politics.
Many autistic people struggle in these areas. They may not underrated social nuisances and why things like small talk or expressions matter. It may help if you explained to them how it works, even if it seems basic to you. Office politics can be a huge problem, especially if the culture can be toxic. They may take things personally, may not understand why people talk behind each other’s backs and may struggle with people lying. The simple remedy would be for this sort of culture to be eradicated anyway, but if it can’t be, again an explanation of why these things happen would be beneficial.
The above points highlight some of the ways in which an autistic individual can struggle in the workplace and how you can support them. Communicating effectively with them can go a long way in helping them understand the environment around them and to enable them to thrive in their work. Your employees are important to you so it is important to listen to them and to give them the support they need. Whilst autistic employees often require more support than others, once they have that support they can often produce much better results compared to others.
If you would like to learn more about our courses and trainings on Neurodiversity & Inclusion at work, please visit our Positive Psychology Autism Centre website here or contact our team at: firstname.lastname@example.org