Autism in the workplace

It's not looking good

By Camilla Asra Engelby

Graphic Designer & Content Creator Camilla Asra Engelby

It’s estimated that up to 90% of autistic adults are unemployed. Let’s explore why there’s such a lack of autism in the workplace …

Autism in the workplace pie charts

In comparison 48% of disabled adults are unemployed and roughly 18% of non-disabled adult are employed. And though work may not be for everyone on the autistic spectrum. Most of us do want to work, so let’s explore some of the obstacles.

The recruitment process

Autism in the workplace recruiters

As autism can affect communications skills, interviews can be a struggle. Questions and body language can be misinterpreted by the candidate. And some autistic people have issues with eye contact which might be construed as lack of determination or even dishonesty by the interviewer. Furthermore being in a new setting with new people can be extremely overwhelming, especially if the recruitment process and who will be conducting the interview hasn’t been explained beforehand.

Keeping a job

Autism in the workplace Sensory overload

The next challenge is to successfully retain an autistic person in the workplace which can sadly be quite tricky. Especially as many workplaces can (unwillingly) be an unsafe space for autistic employees. Because a neurotypical person will probably not spot these issues.

Many workplaces are not inclusive and truly accepting of neurodiversity. I’m not saying that is in any way intentional. I suspect that in most cases it has to do with lack of awareness. Sadly in the end this lack of awareness can lead to sensory overload in the workplace causing distress and frustration for both the autistic employee, their coworkers and their manager.

But there is hope. Many of these issues can quite often be dealt with quite easily.

But what can be done to increase and retain autism in the workplace?

Autism in the workplace included employee
  • Firstly – as no two autistic people are alike– have a talk with the autistic employee about their specific challenges 
  • Tackle any issues that may lead to sensory overload, this can be loud phonecall in a shared office space or a constantly playing radio
  • Respect routines
  • Provide a quiet place
  • Be prepared to be flexible
  • Make yourself accessible
  • When in doubt, just ask
 
Here’s a real life example:
My team and I were doing a seminar to prepare for an event, and my manager emailed me to explain that we’d be doing some practical scenario tests, and would that be a problem for me. I replied that it wouldn’t, but that I couldn’t go first. That took all of a few minutes for the both of us. Minimum effort, big results.

Go get the gold

Autism in the workplace success

There’s a vast pool of untapped neurodiverse talent out there. People who can strengthen companies and organisations if employers are willing to stop seeing autism in the workplace as an unsolvable challenge and start viewing us as a diverse assets.

Creating diverse workplaces with a much wider variety in skills and strengths has great potential to be a true win-win situation for employee and employer alike. 

If you’d like to read a little about my autistic issues and the skills I can bring to the table you can do so right here.

PS. We’re not all techies looking for jobs in IT (although, I do have excellent IT skills, my skills as a Graphic Designer greatly surpasses my IT knowledge).

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