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A Basic Guide of Making Your Workplace Autism-Friendly

25 April 2022

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) doesn’t manifest any clear-cut symptoms. Each autistic person is unique and may have contrasting sensitivities to various stimuli. Employed people with ASD may require additional support and reassurance. As an employer, you have to accommodate some autistic-friendly changes within your workplace.

Professionals and coworkers should keep in mind that good communication is vital for people with autism. Sarcasm and complicated sentences should be avoided, instead, opt for shorter sentences and simpler words when communicating with an autistic person.

You can never know what autism looks like. That’s why as an employer you should interview your autistic employee regarding his/her requirements when working in the office. You can also contact their family and friends to find out what accommodations will they require around the office to be able to work comfortably.

Here are a few things you can do to make your office environment autism-friendly:

Get Rid Of Common Environmental Stressors

A lot of people with ASD tend to get anxious when their surroundings are filled with stressors like loud noises, bright lights, or strong smells. To you, certain stimuli may not feel overwhelming but for autistic people they can be unbearable. The first approach to making your office comfortable for autistic individuals, is to get rid of as many environmental stressors as you can. Some common stressors include:

  • Harsh Lighting

Bright and unnatural lights can be painful for autistic people. You can reduce the harshness of the florescent lights by using light covers that disperse light more naturally around the room. Other than that, people with ASD tend to get distracted easily, so make sure that there are no flickering or humming lights around the room. If the person has a separate office, it’ll be best to install adjustable lighting.

  • Loud Noises And Overcrowding

The open office concept is not for someone with autism. Not only it is bad for productivity but it can become impossible for an autistic person to work in a place filled with constant distractions.

With open workstations also comes the lack of privacy. Not to mention that most people with autism suffer from social anxiety. So, it’ll be hard to focus on work when people are always around their workspace.

Offices should also have isolation rooms which people can use to be away from the crowd and commotion of the office.

  • Air Fresheners And Strong Smells

The use of air fresheners should be reduced to a minimum as a lot of people are sensitive to them. Ensure proper ventilation around the office. And only use scentless cleaning products.

  • Dress Codes

It is better not to have a strict dress code around the office. For autistic individuals, even a slight change can be hard to deal with. So, when it comes to a dress code, keep things casual. Make sure that the dress code is comfortable for your employees with ASD.

Have a Good Management System to Reduce Stress

For a person with autism, it can be difficult to cope with the stress of a normal job. Most employers and managers can put unnecessary pressure on their employees due to their management styles. Here are a few management mistakes that you can avoid to make your workplace more comfortable for autistic people:

  • Meetings Should Be Scheduled Well In Advance

People with autism may require more time to get prepared for meetings. Last-minute meetings and schedule changes are stressful for anyone, but they put immense amounts of pressure on autistic employees.

  • Avoid Requiring Overtime

Don’t require overtime. It can be extremely stressful to stay late. Schedule tasks properly beforehand to avoid any inconveniences at the end of the day.

  • Social Events Should not Be Mandatory

Social events can be a nightmare for people with social anxiety. It shouldn’t be mandatory to attend social events just for the sake of “company culture”. They can put unnecessary stress on people with ASD.

  • Regular Breaks Should Be Encouraged

It is a well-known fact that taking regular breaks improves work efficiency and relieves built-up stress. You also reduce the risk of burnout among employees by encouraging regular breaks. Autistic employees can use such breaks to relax and unwind in isolation if they want.

  • Be Transparent

Every job has some tasks and requirements that are non-negotiable. Such tasks should be put in the job description. Or let your employees know through a meeting. Know that it is hard for autistic adults to understand vague instructions, so be as transparent as possible.

Final Word

The world is becoming inclusive each day, and we live for it. So, it means that we also have to invest efforts in making our professional environments comfortable for people with sensory processing disorders like ASD. By reducing unwanted sensory stressors and tweaking our management practices, we can create a professional workplace that is ASD-friendly.