Rigid work schemes mean that autistic employees may find it difficult to manage their time or prioritise their workload.
To help autistic employees reach their full potential and ensure they do not burn out, we need to eliminate this barrier.
This blog outlines 5 tips that employers can put in place or suggest employees consider themselves to help effectively manage their workload.
For somebody autistic, the world can seem like a confusing place, having a daily routine provides more structure and enables them to prioritise tasks effectively.
Joining the workforce is a big change for autistic individuals as it upsets their routine. Therefore to help them settle easier, have a greater understanding of their day, and to more effectively manage their workload its a good idea to help them create a new routine.
By looking at their previous routine you might want to accommodate and adapt their new routine to follow the same structure so its less distress for them. For example, if they are used to having lunch at 12.30 pm but your work does not have lunch until 1 pm accommodate to fit their schedule by allowing them to continue to have their lunch at 12.30 pm.
Similarly, if you often have work meetings set them for the same day, time, and place every week as not to make it a constant challenge and change that your autistic employee has to face.
Moreover, you could try modifying the environment in which they are going to work so it feels more comfortable and is less change to your employee.
Accommodating and adapting to their needs will make them feel less stressed and overwhelmed by all this change allowing them to get on and manage their workload.
2. Visual support – Timetables, diaries, apps
One struggle that autistic individuals face is communication. Having visual supports and aids will help them to better communicate and manage their workloads.
For example, you could encourage them to use wall planners, diaries, or apps that allow them to set reminders about deadlines which will help them to keep on top of their work.
Additionally, supporting them by offering them a choice of ways to communicate such as through video calls, phone calls, WhatsApp conversation or 1 to 1 meeting will allow them to find what works best for them when holding a meeting and communicating and collaborating with other staff members.
This will help them manage their workload with ease and efficiency. Allowing them to explore ideas and go at their own pace may also help.
3. Sound and noise sensory sensitivities
Some autistic individuals have problems with sensory sensitivities such as light and sound. These will affect and autistic individuals workload as they may struggle to cope with the environment around them and therefore struggle to complete work and meet deadlines.
To ensure this is not a challenge for them, its best to speak to the individual to understand the challenges they face in relating to the environment and act accordingly. This could involve reducing lighting and or provide noise-canceling headphones.
This is particularly a good idea if working in open offices as the headphones would drown out the noise leaving your employee to be more focused and productive.
Additionally, if noise-canceling headphones are not an option you could try with normal headphones and allow your employee to listen to music at a volume that is suitable to drown out the noise but also not loud enough to disturb their or other staff members focus.
Like any other employee, self-care is important for managing one’s workload. Encouraging Autistic employees to take breaks and ensuring that they are not taking work home with them will help them to come back the next day feeling more refreshed and ready to tackle the next days’ activities.
This is particularly important with autistic employees as they may be more prone to anxiety and mental health issues which are more likely to occur if they are becoming stressed and not taking breaks.
Taking 10 minutes out of your Friday afternoon to ask them about their plans for the weekend to make sure they are not planning on working is important.
Additionally, encouraging and congratulating them on their achievements like you would with any employee will help with their self-esteem and keeping a positive mindset. All of this will help to relax and come back motivated and productive to continue to manage their work.
5. Asking for additional support
Finally, the last tip to helping an autistic employee is to let them know that it is okay to ask for additional support if they are struggling.
This may be particularly difficult for autistic employees as they may struggle to communicate so make sure that there are a variety of ways for them to communicate this to you.
Additionally, you may want to put in place some sort of traffic light system so they can visually communicate with you how they feel about their workload with green being that they are fine and confident that they will get it done with red being that they are feeling overwhelmed and need additional support.
Moreover, just looking out for signs that they are burning out or struggling as you would do with other employees would also be a good idea in case they are still struggling to effectively communicate with you.
Knowing that they are able to ask for additional support will help them become underwhelmed by their workload