Finding and adjusting to a new job is difficult for everyone. For individuals with autism, job hunting and acclimating to a workplace environment presents its own unique challenges. While those with autism often have skills and talents that are highly desired, there are struggles they must overcome every day in order to effectively perform their job responsibilities. In this blog, we'll explain how employers can best support these employees and identify some common workplace stressors, like:
A common workplace stressor for individuals with autism is overstimulation. Whether it be loud noises, office activity, bright lights, or a combination of things, too many stimulants can cause anxiety and lack of focus. Some people with autism can even experience panic attacks as a result of overstimulation. Providing these employees with noise canceling headphones or their own office where they can adjust the lighting and noise levels to their liking may prove to be beneficial in trying to protect them from this stressor.
Socializing can also be a difficult aspect of the workplace for employees with autism. It can be difficult for these individuals to:
- Be aware of co-workers’ emotions
These challenges can cause those with autism to come across as awkward, inappropriate, or even offensive to other employees. The best way for an employer to prevent these negative interactions is to set expectations up front. If the office is aware that an individual does not like to casually socialize or may have issues reading social cues, they will know what to expect when trying to communicate.
Unexpected change of any kind can be difficult for employees with autism to cope with. These individuals do best with schedules, routine, and sameness — however, that is not always something that can be promised in a work environment. Shift changes, last minute meetings, and other unexpected changes can be quite common on the job. Even unexpected environmental changes, like moving office furniture or desks, can cause stress and anxiety for those with autism.
To avoid this stressor, employers should try to keep the schedules of these employees the same each week to the best of their ability. It’s also helpful to warn individuals with autism ahead of any planned changes, like office remodeling — this will give them time and space to cope and adjust with the newness.
How Employers Can Support
It’s important that employers know how to best support their employees with autism in order to provide them with the best working environment possible. While there are many routes one can go about creating a safe space for these individuals, here are a few general ways employers can support their employees with autism:
- Get educated
- This is the easiest and first step a boss should take in order to be able to properly advocate for their employees with autism.
- Check prejudice at the door
- Employers should not let their preconceived notions influence their opinion of an employee — just because they may not make a lot of eye contact with you or laugh at your jokes doesn’t mean they won’t be a dedicated employee and team member.
- Be open to accommodations
- Individuals with autism may need accommodations such as extended project due dates, their own office, set schedules, etc. Be open to reasonable requests — having different working hours or using noise canceling headphones may be how they are the most productive.
- Promote kindness
- Employers should promote a culture of kindness throughout the workplace, as people with autism can become easy targets for bullying and discrimination.
- Find additional resources
- When it comes to hiring and employing employees with autism, there are tons of resources out there for bosses if they need extra advice, information, or support.
Learn From Baddour
At The Baddour Center, our Vocational Services Division offers meaningful employment and training to all our residents. We believe that through excellent employment opportunities and training, Baddour residents provide excellent service to corporate customers. To learn more about our programs and how we foster a healthy workplace, visit our website.