How Corporate Workplaces Adapt to Autism
Historically, individuals who aren’t neurotypical have often been confined to the margins of society. Even today as people learn more about varying cognitive conditions such as autism, society is often not designed to be friendly for non-neurotypical individuals. In major, profit-driven corporations like those that often dominate the job market, there’s traditionally been even less space for individuals who have a difficult time adapting to workplace expectations. All of that is starting to change.
Thanks in part to research and treatment available for autistic individuals, advocacy that has dramatically changed public understanding of autism, and a workforce that is moving increasingly more towards technology driven industries, many major corporations are now actively looking to hire non-neurotypical individuals.
A big step toward neurodiversity
There are a variety of reasons why corporations are making a move towards more neurodiversity in the workplace. From a cynical perspective, one might chalk these initiatives up to PR stunts designed to make companies look friendly and inclusive. While incorporating more neurodiversity in the workplace certainly doesn’t harm any company’s public image, most corporations insist that this isn’t the primary motivation. Instead, many industry leaders cite specific types of problems and jobs that are best suited for autistic individuals as the motivation for actively trying to create a more diverse workforce.
Adapting the workplace
As a variety of companies make the move towards including autistic individuals in their talent pools, they’re also being forced with the question of how best to adapt the hiring process and workplace to neurodiverse individuals. For example, David Platzer, who is a PhD candidate at John Hopkins and an experience researcher at Adobe, discussed how he’s changed his interview style to better accommodate autistic individuals. Rather than inviting individuals into a room to answer a list of questions, he presents them with various tasks and asks them to complete them. After assessing their ability to complete these tasks, he takes the individual out for coffee. Platzer notes that it’s often easier to understand who the individual is and identify areas of interest or expertise over a casual conversation as opposed to a list of predetermined questions. Companies that are working to hire more autistic individuals typically desire these workers because they don’t approach tasks in the same way as their neurotypical coworkers, and this naturally means that the interview process has to be adjusted.
Similarly, companies are also working to adjust their workplaces so that autistic individuals can thrive. Ensuring that a workplace is a positive environment for an autistic individual is often a unique task as each autistic individual will have different symptoms and needs, but companies are universally trying to do a better job of embracing diverse workplaces. On top of addressing potential differences in the workplace, many companies are also developing programs that provide life coaching. Often, new employees may be relocating and may find themselves in a new city without a support structure for the first time. DXC Technologies in Australia has provided 58 of the autistic employees hired in the past 2 years with access to a financial planner and nutritionist. These resources help autistic individuals who are highly skilled at their jobs but maybe struggled with mundane tasks to learn and develop skills that will help them prosper. Ultimately, this type of program benefits the companies sponsoring them. While an employee may be a skilled worker, if they don’t know how to manage their finances, diet, or other life tasks, they won’t thrive and the quality of their work will decrease. By ensuring that these employees are thriving in all areas of their lives, employers ensure that the employees can continue providing high quality work in the office.
Read on to learn more about people with autism in the workplace.