According to research, there are around 700,000 adults in the UK that have been diagnosed with autism. So how do we help them at work?
Because we are all about inclusivity at work, we asked Director of People and Culture at Liberty Marketing, Molly Dyer for some expert advice on making sure your workplace is appropriate for autistic employees.
There are many things to consider when ensuring a workplace is suitable for individuals with autism. However, the main thing to remember is that there is no template to ensuring autistic individuals thrive at work, and it will take a deep understanding of what specific people need to really get it right.
Communication style, respecting boundaries and sensory sensitivity are just some of the vital aspects to really consider when creating a working environment where everyone feels safe, supported and valued.
Educate yourself and your team about autism and how it can affect people in the workplace. Provide training on how to interact with and support autistic colleagues. Encourage open communication and create a safe space where employees feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their experiences.
Autistic individuals can be sensitive to sensory stimuli such as noise, light, and touch. Consider providing a quiet workspace or designated quiet areas, adjusting lighting and temperature levels, and allowing for sensory breaks.
Having different environments in the office is very useful for reasons beyond inclusion. If this isn’t something your workplace already has, it’s highly likely your whole workforce will benefit from areas that mix up the environment, not just individuals with autism.
Always provide clear and concise communication, and consider using visual aids such as diagrams or written instructions to supplement verbal instructions.
Autistic individuals may have difficulties with communication and may express themselves differently than others. Use clear and concise language, avoid sarcasm and figurative language, and give them time to process information and respond.
Autistic individuals may have difficulty interpreting nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and body language. Be mindful of this and use verbal communication to supplement nonverbal cues.
Allow for flexibility in work schedules and tasks to accommodate the individual needs and preferences of autistic employees. Consider offering remote work options if appropriate. Autistic individuals may have difficulty with social interaction and may need more personal space than others.
At the same time, autistic individuals often thrive on routine and may become anxious when their routine is disrupted. If that’s what the individuals working with/for you require, then try to maintain a consistent schedule and provide advance notice of any changes.
Consider accommodations such as assistive technology, modified workstations, and specialised software that can help autistic individuals be more productive and comfortable in their work environment.