What Employers Should Know About Autism at Work

Written by Rachel Blythe
Last updated Thursday September 15 2022

Autism affects around 700,000 adults and children in the U.K. It is a lifelong condition that affects different people in different ways. The most common symptoms associated with autism include: 

  • Sensitivity to sensory experiences
  • Difficulty in regulating emotion
  • Difficulties in everyday communication and interaction 
  • Issues with processing
  • Associated mental health problems, including anxiety and depression
  • Complications with forming relationships with others 
  • Stress in certain situations or surroundings, especially those that are new or overstimulating 

Due to the nature of autism, it affects many adults at work across the U.K. Many autistic adults find it challenging to find a job that suits them and many also find it difficult to maintain a position on a long-term basis. 

While there is growing awareness and understanding of autism, we still have a long way to go. At Careers with Disabilities, we believe that the country would be a happier place if we all had more awareness, training and learning about difficult health conditions, both physical and mental. When employers and employees can work together to create the best possible work environments for all kinds of individuals, everything gets better for both sides. 

Therefore, in this blog, we want to help employers know a little more about autism. We are going to talk through the main things that we think all employers should know. 

Starting with: 

1. Everyone Experiences Autism Differently – Forget the Stereotypes

A problem that many adults with autism face in the world of work is that of stereotyping. A lot of people will have a fixed idea of what autism looks like to them in their minds, and this isn’t always accurate. Some people may even refer to fictional characters for their definition of autism, and this is even less accurate. 

It is important to remember that autism is a spectrum disorder and that means that there is a wide range of symptoms and experiences for a wide range of people. There is no one-fits-all policy when it comes to autism. For example, when it comes to difficulties with sensory experiences, as mentioned earlier, some autistic adults will be sensory-seeking and some will be sensory-sensitive. This means that for some people, sensory experiences can easily feel too much and this can overwhelm the person, especially noises and physical touch. However, for others with autism, they will crave sensory experiences and a lack of them can lead to distress instead. 

It is vital that you listen to each and every staff member with autism as an individual. Don’t try and assume they have certain needs or interests due to stereotypes or cases of other people you know. Stay open to the different ways in which autism can present and work on a case-to-case basis. 

2. Every Day with Autism Is Different 

Something important for employers to be aware of is that the way an autistic adult feels and can manage their work duties greatly varies day by day. People with autism can feel differently depending on how much energy they think they have, what is going on in their outside lives, and what their current environment is like. Similarly to neurotypical people but with the settings turned up a little higher. 

Certain job tasks and duties may feel manageable to autistic employees one day and then impossible the next. Similarly, one week they could manage 8 hours a day and the next week this feels impossible. 

For this reason, flexible working is one of the very best things you can offer an autistic adult at work. Flexible hours allow your employees to work in a way that better suits them and avoid extra days off and stress from not managing on certain days/weeks. Having a long-term flexible approach to working can help autistic adults maintain their position for a long time and can help them have a much happier work-life balance. 

3. Remote Work Opportunities Can Be Transformative for Autism

Working at home can give autistic adults a big advantage at work as they can choose how their own working environment. As sensory experiences, social interaction, and discomfort are such big aspects of autism, it can be difficult for someone with the condition to work comfortably in a communal working environment. While certain noises or stimuli may not even be noticed by other employees, these can be things that can cause employees with autism daily distress and discomfort. 

If you are able to continue to offer remote work opportunities after the pandemic, doing such is a great thing for autistic employees. It provides a sense of control which can be very comforting. 

However, again, it is important to remember that not all autistic people feel the same about certain situations and some people may even find working from home more uncomfortable. It all depends on circumstances, so it is always important to listen and understand each person’s point of view. 

4. Autism Support at Work Can Be Life-Changing

Any accommodations you can make for an autistic employee can be life-changing for them. For a long time, autism in adults hasn’t been adequately or appropriately supported or recognised. Now that more awareness is taking place, we need to match it with the right support. 

Receiving the right support at work can help an autistic person maintain their job, be happy there, and have a better overall quality of life. Even small accommodations and reasonable adjustments such as the provision of noise-cancelling headphones, allowing flexible work hours, changing meeting protocol, and so on, can make a huge difference. 

The best thing you can do is listen, learn, and commit to being the best employer you can be. That is what makes it work. 

Find a Diverse Pool of Candidates for Your Business

If you are someone who is dedicated to being an equal opportunities employer, you will need to find the right place to search for diverse employees. Actively recruiting from an accessible and inclusive job board is one of the best first steps into being a Diversity-Positive employer, and you can do so right here on Careers with Disabilities. 

We have lots of services to offer employers all across the country, to help them improve inclusivity and connect with diverse candidates.

You can get started as an inclusive employer and check out our service packages right here on our site.

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Last Updated: Thursday September 15 2022

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