Autism is a condition that affects how a person:

  • experiences their environment
  • feels
  • interacts with others
  • thinks

Each person with autism is different, which is why we describe them as being on the autism spectrum.

People on the autism spectrum are born with it and it stays with them for life.

If you have an employee on the autism spectrum in your team, here are some things you can do to support them.

Set a work routine

Many employees with autism prefer a set routine at work and home.

Support them to set a work routine that works for them and your team.

Here are some things you can do:

  • ask them what they need frequently
  • check if they feel worried or stressed and what you can to do to help
  • with the person’s permission, reach out to other teams in your organisation to help with what they need, such as the D&I team
  • follow up to see if the solution is working

Check they can access remote tools

If your employee on the autism spectrum’s remote tools don’t work, this will impact their work routine.

Check they:

  • have a reliable internet connection and enough data to do their job
  • can access your organisation’s digital tools, such as file-sharing and collaboration tools
  • they can access key information, such as policies and templates
  • they have a way to print or scan documents if they need this to do their job

Ask about sensory disruptions

Many employees on the autism spectrum have heightened senses to noise, smell and touch.

In a work setting, this may impact them in a variety of ways.

As a people manager, you may not be able to control these in a remote environment.

But understanding their work environment can help you manage issues they may face.

Find out if they:

  • have access to a quiet work environment with good natural light
  • would like noise-cancelling headphones
  • have done an ergonomic and OHS assessment

Agree to a method for communication

Group discussions or too much stimuli may make an employee on the autism spectrum uncomfortable or stressed.

As a people manager, you need to be clear with them about how they can communicate and when. Don’t leave any grey area.

Working with your employee on the autism spectrum, agree to:

  • best ways to ask questions, such as if they should ask you questions right away or save them for the end of the conversation
  • best times of day to catch up, such as if it’s okay to contact you outside of work
  • expectations on work completion, such as how long you expect they take to do a task
  • forums for communication, such as one-on-one meetings or small groups
  • how frequent you’ll check-in, such as a set calendar invite or short daily check-ins
  • how you’d both like to communicate and receive feedback, such as email, phone and so on

Talk about wellbeing regularly

Employees on the autism spectrum will often have other health issues such as anxiety and stress.

When you meet with them, ask them questions about their wellbeing.

Ask things like:

  • Are you eating a balanced diet?
  • Are you feeling sad and do you want to access one of our organisation’s employee support programs?
  • Are you getting fresh air and exercise each day?
  • Are you having enough breaks?
  • Are you sleeping well or having difficulty sleeping?
  • Have you thought about seeing your GP?
  • What hours are you working each day?
  • Would you like me to connect you with our D&I or HR team to speak about what they can help you with?