As many companies are looking to create a workplace that is more inclusive of neurodivergent individuals, one population to recognise is those on the autism spectrum as they can often face unique challenges and misunderstandings in professional settings without their condition being understood.
According to the National Statistics data, only 29% of people with autism are in paid employment and there is a clear need for change as those who are eager to find a job that reflects their talents and interests have a lot to offer employers.
Fortunately, understanding the potential issues autistic people face at work doesn’t have to be intimidating! By learning more about creating an autism-friendly workplace, employers could build a successful team and foster a supportive environment for everyone.
By understanding autism and the differences it will bring to a workplace, businesses can create environments that support autistic individuals’ successes and ultimately foster a more effective workplace culture overall. This can include training managers and team members on how to best work with autistic colleagues, implementing different policies and procedures to accommodate autistic workers and, seeing the positive things that people with autism can bring to the team.
Autistic employees can sometimes have difficulty with communication, collaboration and multitasking in a traditional office environment, but they can also bring unique skill sets and perspectives to the workplace, such as:
- Detailed factual knowledge
- Technical analysis and skills
- Close attention to detail
- Ability to find errors that other people may not spot
- Excellent memory
Hiring process for autistic talent
For businesses looking to hire neurodiverse talent, there are several things you can do to make your workplace as inclusive as possible. Firstly, review your recruitment processes and determine how they could be adapted for candidates with autism.
This may include:
- Avoid common buzzwords in job descriptions, such as “excellent communication”, as these may put autistic candidates off applying.
- For interviews provide a timetable with the amount of time each section, for example, thirty minutes to discuss the CV, application and previous experience, thirty minutes for the task, and ten minutes for any questions they may have. And if possible, give them a pre-prepared list of the interview questions.
- Provide directions to the interview, along with images of the front of the office.
- Take into consideration that they may struggle with body language and eye contact and also may also struggle with answering scenario-type questions, so keep them simple with easy direct answers.
- Give the candidate an opportunity to request any reasonable adjustments they may need throughout the recruitment process.
Creating an inclusive work environment for autistic employees
Creating an inclusive workplace environment for employees on the autism spectrum should be a priority for any business.
There are several strategies that can be used to create an inclusive workplace environment, such as:
- Developing inclusive policies and practices.
- Training and education for members of staff. By making sure everyone is well-informed and educated on issues related to neurodiversity inclusion in the workplace, you will be able to create an inclusive environment which supports everyone’s unique contribution.
- Adjusting communication methods to the individual.
- Providing quiet spaces if the individual gets overwhelmed.
- Engaging with specialised professionals that can help with specific needs or adjustments.
How can managers support their autistic employees?
Knowing how to best manage and understand autistic employees is essential for an inclusive workplace, to ensure everyone feels welcome and supported in their job. It’s important for managers to gain a deeper understanding of autism, including recognising that each person with autism is unique, and what may work for one employee may not work for another.
There are many resources out there for employers to understand the needs of an autistic employee, including Autism.org and Autism Speaks.
It’s clear there’s still a need for more awareness and understanding of autism in the workplace. Still, By creating an environment that is welcoming to neurodiverse employees and providing managers with the resources that can help them support their autistic staff members, there is tremendous potential to embrace the benefits people with autism can bring.
Ultimately, this means that everybody stands to gain, employees on the spectrum can find employment and employers will benefit from an incredibly diverse range of skill sets and qualities.