Planning Your New Commute for Autistic Employees
Congratulations on your new job! I really mean it, well done on acing the interview and getting the job. This moment in time can be quite overwhelming, there’s a lot of change coming up and a lot of emotions or internal feelings to decode and process, so take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’ve achieved something amazing.
There will be all sorts of worries to address about starting work but our blog has lots of articles about every aspect of navigating the workplace as a neurodivergent person, and this one is specifically about the subject of navigation!
Planning ahead can be a very challenging task for us neurodiverse folk, but the issue of planning your commute to work is one which we can help with right now. Whether you’re driving yourself, getting a lift, cycling, walking or using public transport we need to plan our route, how long it takes, and what our back up plans are if anything changes.
Commuting tips for every mode of transport
The following tips are applicable to every neurodivergent employee, no matter the mode of transport you use:
- Print off a map of the route to keep in your work bag so that you can always refer to it even if your mobile battery is flat, or you have no signal
- Find out the cost of a taxi for the journey, and keep emergency cash to cover this cost in your work bag as well as the number for a local taxi company. This is your emergency back up plan if anything goes wrong during your commute and you need to get home
- Check when the school holidays are, because this can mean that roads and pavements are much busier than normal at certain times, and quieter at others. School holidays may mean changing your route, or the time you leave home, to allow for the change
- Practice your commute beforehand, and take someone with you to support and help you if you need it. Make sure you travel at the same time of day (and on a weekday) so it will be as busy as when you make your first commute
- Have a plan ready in case you become overwhelmed during the commute. This might involve being able to text work (or a friend/relative who can call work on your behalf). It might involve knowing where there is a quiet place to decompress, or having calming music and stim toys to hand
- Consider asking for different start and end times to allow you to travel at quieter and more manageable times. This is a reasonable adjustment that your employer should make in most cases
Commuting tips for using public transport
If you are using public transport these tips will help manage your commute and prepare you for any changes that may happen:
- Keep a printed copy of the bus and train times in your work bag so you can check when the next service is due. If you are running late you can easily check the times of the next train or bus
- If timetables are confusing to read, write down the next two trains or buses on a piece of paper for reference, or highlight them on the timetable
- Have headphones or earphones and/or a book to use as a shield against unwanted chat from other passengers. You don’t have to actually read the book or listen to any music if you don’t want to, because these visual clues say “please leave me alone” to other passengers
Positive aspects of commuting
Commuting can be hard at first, but when you are comfortable with the journey it will become a familiar part of your routine. Sometimes, diversions and roadworks might change the route, but there will be plenty of notice of these changes, allowing you to plan around them. If you’re taking public transport you won’t even need to make any decisions as the diversion is planned for you!
The time spent commuting is a really good opportunity for you to read, craft or play games if you’re using public transport. If you’re driving, you can put your favourite music or podcasts on and use the time to catch up on your favourite radio show or listen to the music that gets you ready for work.
You can also use the commute home to process the events of the day and calm down if it has been a busy or stressful day. Your commute is your time to spend on yourself, so make it enjoyable in any way you can. That way you will get home in a frame of mind that is ready for quiet time or ready to SpIn.