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Autism in the Workplace- Chris Barnes. Pareto FM

Following my last piece about autism and the workplace an organisation was moved to act in the FM world and ended up creating TWO paid internships. Instantly changing two lives that now have hope and experience that workplaces are for everyone.

Unfortunately, it’s not always the case, neurodiverse people, despite possessing extraordinary talents, struggle to find jobs suited for their skillsets.

Many major company’s worldwide have made huge steps in making their organisation inclusive, but many have had challenges making the work place neurodiversity friendly.

I have attended a few workshops and conferences on making the workplace more Neurodiversity Friendly and here is what I have learned so far.....

Change the recruitment process

The standard recruitment approach aimed at finding the ideal person for the job may work for neurotypical individuals, but that same process would miss out on people with autism. Most behavioral characteristics of autistic people stand in stark contrast with the preconceived notions of what an ‘ideal candidate’ should be and of course the ‘ideal interview.’ This is another aspect of the recruitment process that can be intimidating and overly stimulating for an autistic candidate.

Tip- Providing candidates on the spectrum with a clear idea about what the interview process entails, preferably along with a set of interview questions that they can expect will allow them enough time to prepare.

Tip- Ahead of the interview, ask them about any specific requirements/accommodations that they might need to feel supported and comfortable.

Tip-I love it when a building or organisation features a video of their reception and building entrance ontheir website. Explaining what to expect when you get there , showing you where to go etc. This always gets a 5-star review from me.

Raise awareness about neurodiversity

While looking to hire neurodiverse employees, it is important to raise awareness among the existing neurotypical employees.

Tip - Provide information about the new employee and educate the staff about any specific accommodations that they might be expected to make on their account.

Tip- Formal neurodiversity training conducted by professionals can help other employees to gain an understanding of the challenges their colleagues may face which in turn aids acceptance and non-discriminatory behaviour towards neurodiversity in the workplace.

Tip- Gain understanding of terminology like autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia-understand the impact of each one to ensure an inclusive work environment.

Reasonable adjustments

In addition to raising awareness with neurotypical employees about neurodiversity, it is important to lead by example and create a workplace that values and supports neurodiverse employees.

Tip - Flexible conditions like an option to work remotely can significantly improve their productivity by eliminating the need to adjust to a new environment.

It is also the duty of the employer to minimize (if not completely remove) any disadvantages that neurodiverse employees might face. This can be something as simple as adjusting the lights, providing them with noise-cancelling headphones and a flexible work schedule.

Tip- Creating a quiet space that they can use to avoid any sensory overload is a thoughtful accommodation that employers can offer. (I personally love my noise cancelling earphones , so when I am in a busy office environment, I can just click them to noise cancelling and all that hustle and bustle disappears)

Be patient, Open Minded and willing to accommodate

Building a neurodiverse team in your organisation can be tricky. Every neurodiverse individual is different and as such not all of them can be supported in the same way. I for example change often what type of support I need it really can change daily , so having a good support system and a mentor that you can trust , confide in and be there for you helps hugely.

Tip - Organisations must remember to be patient with their neurodiverse employees. But most importantly, businesses must be willing to have an open mind, adapt and evolve.

A neurodiverse workforce brings with it immense potential for creative and innovative ideas and task , problems can be looked at though a different mindset which is invaluable . There are certain aspects of a business where neurodiverse individuals excel. But at the same time, it is important to have realistic expectations from the employees.

So what now ?

Neurodiverse people have been around forever; it is only recently that organisations have started to realize how they can support them and in turn benefit from their skills. A neurodiverse workforce can bring an out-of-the-box perspective and add unique value to businesses.

This list of steps that companies can take towards being more neurodiverse is by no means an exhaustive one, but even a small nudge in the right direction can lead to a big change. We could change someone’s life for the better with just one change, so why not now !


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