10 ways to support employees with Autism
Updated: 31st October 2023
Making sure employees are happy should be a priority within the workplace, after all they are the do-er’s who help the business to grow. Taking some time aside to reflect on their working environment and what adjustments could be made to make their day to day a little brighter, will have huge benefits for productivity and employee retainment.
When thinking up nurturing programmes, be inclusive of neurodiverse employees to ensure your efforts impact each and every employee. In light of Autism Awareness Week, we have shared our top 10 tips on how to create a welcoming workplace for employees with Autism.
1. Explore the idea of a ‘buddy system’
Autistic employees may need extra direction in unforeseen situations, and having a buddy can act as an assigned point of contact that’s less formal than a mentor. This can help autistic employees feel more comfortable with asking lots of questions or checking context and uncertainties.
2. Prevent overstimulation and consider desk location
Many individuals with autism struggle with sensory issues. Certain sights, sounds and smells can prove overwhelming. In the workplace, this might be fluorescent lighting or loud offices. Offer a working area with little noise and distraction. Noise-canceling headphones can also be used to help block out distractions.
3. Create a structured environment
Routine can be hugely important to individuals with autism, so it’s important to discuss the best way to plan workload and instruct on task requirements. Clear instruction, structured working, and forward planning are important.
4. Plan ahead and be prepared
Discuss the best way to plan workload and instruct on task requirements. Clear instruction, structured working, and forward planning are important to reduce anxiety and distress.
5. Be instructive, speak with clarity, and identify the best way to provide feedback
People with autism think literally, so be direct and outline expectations clearly, while still being sensitive. Try to give straightforward instructions, rather than more informal, brief instructions. Providing written instructions may also be beneficial.
6. Be empathetic and inclusive
Empathy is a key part of an inclusive environment, but social cues and invisible boundaries are hard to see. Be mindful of the phrases you use and proactively include those who struggle to interact.
7. Check-in regularly
Offer the opportunity for regular one-to-one conversations. The goal is to offer a frequent channel for support. And if something needs to be rectified, don’t allude to what went wrong, state what’s at fault, explain how it can be fixed, and check everything is understood.
8. Facilitate diverse ways of processing
Not everyone learns and understands in the same way. That’s why it’s important to provide multiple ways of learning. Provide information in different formats and use assistive technology to aid comprehension.
9. Embrace employee strengths
It’s crucial to focus on what unique strengths autistic employees can provide. Identify their strengths then work on how they can use them every day. This will be motivating for employees and better for business.
10. Respect comfort zones
Offer your employees with autism a quiet and calming space to de-stress and regulate their emotions. Provide comfortable furniture and encourage employees to bring their own comfort items like weighted blankets or noise-cancelling headphones.