Workplace Christmas parties are special occasions where colleagues come together to celebrate the season, eat festive food, and exchange presents. During this time of merriment, team members can strengthen the bonds between them and build better working relationships. But that doesn’t mean everyone will be entirely comfortable with the unspoken rules of a party. For autistic employees, these social events can be a source of anxiety, which is why it’s essential to provide an inclusive party atmosphere and ensure everyone feels welcome. So how do you create an autism friendly Christmas party? We will break down the tips based on the order of events.
Prior to the Party
Last-minute surprises and changes to plans aren’t a good idea when considering the needs of autistic employees. It’s likely that most autistic individuals will struggle with unexpected changes such as a change of venue or menu. To make sure your autistic employees feel comfortable and included, give them advanced notice so they can mentally prepare for the event.
Four essential tips to give advance notice for the Office Christmas party
Consider the environment:
Autistic people may experience sensory processing challenges, which means they may find some sensory inputs overwhelming. Of course, Christmas parties can be full of them, from bright lights, loud music to different smells. It’s important to let your autistic employee know about these before hand, so they can manage them and take time out if they need to.
Provide details about the food that will be served:
Autistic individuals may have specific preferences regarding food, so make sure they know what to expect as far as food and drinks are concerned.
Be clear about the venue and timings:
Inform your staff about the exact location and time of the party. An accurate visual map can help orient them in a strange place.
Give the agenda for the evening:
Are there any special activities planned? Will there be a presentation or dancing? Let them know now so they can mentally prepare for the evening. Structure can be really important to someone autistic, so giving them timings for the evening will help them.
During the Party
The streamers are up, the food is served, and the festivities have begun. It’s essential to make sure everyone feels comfortable. You don’t want a situation where your autistic employees feel like they are just there to fill a quota. Here are three tips to help create a comfortable and welcoming environment:
Three essential tips to make sure Autistic Employees Feel Included During the Party
Create a calmer area:
Not all autistic people will want to join in on the games and dancing, so create an area and inform them of where they can retreat to if they need some peace.
A great way to break the ice is by introducing your autistic employees to the other team members at the party. This will help them feel welcomed and accepted into the group.
Include everyone in conversations:
Keep everyone in conversations and activities. Give company to your autistic employees and ensure everyone is relaxed in the discussions.
After the Party
The party may be over, but it’s essential to keep checking in with your autistic employees and make sure they feel comfortable during the event. A follow-up survey is a great way to get their honest feedback on the event.
Three essential tips to get feedback from Autistic Employees After the Party
Check-in with employees personally:
Use this as an opportunity to understand how your autistic staff felt during the party and see if there is a way to make it better for them next year.
Ask for written feedback:
Collect anonymous written feedback from your autistic employees so you can better understand what worked & what needs to be improved in the future.
Send out a survey:
You can use a simple online survey tool to easily get feedback from all your staff about the events. Make sure you give them the option to remain anonymous if they prefer.
With these tips, you’ll ensure that all of your staff, autistic or otherwise, have an enjoyable and inclusive time at the office Christmas Party.