November 18th, 2016 / Insight posted in Blog

Autism in the Workplace

The release of “The Accountant” has raised awareness about developmental disorders, and particularly Asperger Syndrome (a condition on the autistic spectrum), in the workplace. A survey was recently carried out to discover how many people with a disability are currently employed, how many are currently unemployed or have never been employed. The survey also drilled down to look at developmental disorders, specifically people with autism. Only around 30% of those with autism are currently employed with 40% having never worked a day in their life.

For many, there may be genuine concerns about employing someone with a developmental disorder, perhaps it may be considered impractical in terms of any reasonable adjustments that could be required or maybe you feel the business might not be able to provide the appropriate support that the individual requires. After watching Ben Affleck act this part as a successful accountant, I thought it might be interesting to break it down and see just how much (or little) of an impact it could have on a business to employ someone with autism.

It is true that an employee with autism may need their employer to put in place reasonable adjustments to ensure they are confident and comfortable in the workplace and these adjustments could vary greatly from person to person. Just the same as a person with a physical disability, it is a not a ‘one fit for all’ situation, but then again, when is it?

Having researched some reasonable adjustments that could benefit someone with autism, I have listed a few below:

  • Relaxed dress code for those with sensory challenges
  • Slightly different shift pattern to avoid travelling in rush hour for those that find loud and busy environments difficult
  • Sound cancelling headphones provided for those that are sensitive to noise
  • Having one to one meetings with the employee in place of team meeting attendance for those uncomfortable in a crowd
  • Allowing the employee time to process information from the meeting before being required to respond
  • Informing the employee of any adaptions in the workplace as early as possible for those uncomfortable with change

Looking at the above list, the impact on a business may be considerably less than originally thought.

So going back to Ben Affleck’s character in The Accountant and thinking of Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man, imagine the incredible skill sets your business could profit from by employing someone with such specialist knowledge and abilities!

Maybe it is time for us all to have a more flexible approach and welcome those, which may otherwise struggle, into working life!