Autism and the workplace

Autism and the workplace

One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum but just 22% of autistic adults are in any kind of employment, according to a 2020 survey by the Office for National Statistics. With companies like Microsoft and Google seeking out a neurodiverse workforce, ABSTRACT take a look at the barriers and benefits to bringing autistic people into the team.

According to Valerie Paradiz, Ph.D.  (Vice President of Services and Supports at Autism Speaks), from a high-level perspective, “the barriers have been that autism and neurodiversity have been an afterthought when it comes to conversations about diversity and inclusion.” At ABSTRACT, they have led the charge in equality, diversity and inclusion for years – and neurodiversity is very definitely critical to making businesses better in the long run.

This article discusses the benefits of employing an autistic person and how you can help to create a more inclusive, autism-friendly workplace that reflects the general population.

What is autism?

The National Autistic Society defines autism as ‘a lifelong developmental disability, which affects how people communicate and interact with the world.’

As it affects people in different ways it is referred to as a spectrum condition. Like everyone, autistic people have their own strengths and challenges, such as communicating and interacting with other people, interpreting verbal and non-verbal language, reading other people’s emotions, and expressing their own.

Reasons to employ an autistic person

Many autistic people have unique experiences and exceptional skills that can help them thrive in the workplace. This means they offer an innovative approach to business practices such as product design and problem-solving.

Autistic employees often demonstrate an above-average ability in desired skills such as concentration levels, attention to detail, reliability and persistence, factual knowledge, and excellent memory.

Another competitive advantage is excellent tech orientation, which can make an autistic person a great fit for IT and technological roles.

Encouraging a diverse workforce including people with autism can also lead to positive business impacts such as higher productivity, better morale, improved services and products, and increased bottom lines.

Creating an inclusive environment

The following small adaptations to your workplace practices will help to create a supportive environment in which an autistic person can excel.

  • Structured work environment: Some autistic people need an organised routine such as a timetable of activities with accurate start and finish times, and prioritised activities broken down into smaller tasks
  • Remove sensory distractions: It may be that autistic employees will benefit from supportive aids such as desk screens and noise-cancelling headphones to help reduce external noise
  • Regular reassurance: Showing empathy can help to reduce feelings of stress or confusion in some autistic people who can be meticulous and struggle with unpreventable situations such as traffic or IT failures
  • Employee awareness: Providing staff with general information about autism will create a more understanding workplace. If your autistic employee consents to disclosing their condition, you could also provide guidance to staff on how to best support their colleague

For more information on creating a diverse culture, check out ABSTRACT’S article on making the workplace more inclusive for Neurodiverse people or get in touch to find out more about ABSTRACT and how they can help you.


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