Published on in Responsible Business

For many of us, Covid-19 has meant swapping the office environment for our home. Many have found this understandably frustrating due to a lack of face-to-face social interaction.

But for some people with autism – like me – remote working has been a welcomed change.

I’ve been working from home since March and I’ve found my home provides an environment that suits the way my brain processes information.

For example, many people with autism find they over-process sensory information. Commuting to, and working in, an office environment can present a variety of noises, sounds, and sights to process, which can sometimes be challenging.

Working in a comfortable home environment decreases the amount of sensory information that needs to be processed, which leaves me in a more productive state of mind.

Scheduled support and socialising

Social distancing can also be beneficial to people with autism because it limits the stress of adhoc social interactions.

Instead, I can interact with my colleagues through video conferencing technology at scheduled times throughout the week. This alleviates the worry around impromptu conversations.

However, it is still important to keep up communication and collaboration while everyone is working disparately. And scheduled calls are an opportunity for teams to offer support to one another, as well as to share updates on work.

Networks are also another useful way to share and receive support outside of your day-to-day team.

For example, I’m currently developing a website for our partner Autistica, which will allow people with autism to share their experiences during Covid-19 and beyond. Fujitsu also have a disability Employee Network group called SEED, of which I’m the Autism Champion.

Support networks like this are particularly important because they allow you to connect with people over shared experiences. Even in lock down this can be a useful way to expand your social life in a comfortable setting via Facetime or social media.

Having a mentor is also a beneficial way to support not just neurodiverse employees, but everyone currently working from home. This is someone who can talk to you about issues you may be having as they arise.

Fujitsu also has an app called BuddyConnect to specifically help employees with autism. This has a number of features, including a colour-coded wellbeing tracker.

BuddyConnect users can record how they’re feeling through a traffic light system which triggers action when necessary. This could be a chat with your buddy over instant messenger or a call to an employee support line.

The future of remote working and neurodiverse employees

There’s been much discussion on what the future of work will look like now businesses have experienced mass working from home.

Some are pining for the social atmosphere an office provides. But others, like me, have learned that a home environment cultivates a more productive mindset.

My experience has highlighted that what might be one employee’s ideal environment, may be another employee’s distraction.

As working practices become more and more flexible it’s important that businesses understand the needs of neurodiverse employees.

Remote working could create a more productive and comfortable environment for people with autism. And now is the time to identify the hurdles that need to be overcome in order to help companies embrace it.

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4 Comments

  1. Comment icon

    Simon said on

    Hi Paul. Not sure if I’m autistic or not (I wouldn’t be surprised if I was), but I’m a home worker myself and can relate to just about everything you said in your blog – it’s quite nice to hear someone else describing ‘my’ experience too. My change from office-worker to home-worker was a gradual one; it was around the same time that technology was making it practical to work from home, and I noticed that when I was going into the office, I wasn’t really working with anyone because all the colleagues on my project were up north (I’m down south), and I was having to screen office sounds out using active noise cancellation together with white noise. After a while, I realised it was a bit pointless spending time and money travelling to a bunch of people, only to then screen them out all day. I just can’t make any progress with the sounds of other conversations, phones ringing, etc. So I started working from home and found it loads easier to concentrate. Sure, there are different types of distractions at home, but on balance, I’m much better there. Once in a while, it’s nice to go into an office; I never look forward to it, but I usually come away saying it was good to have seen people, even if the office environment is a bit of an assault on the senses when I first walk in. Most of the time though, I’m very happy being a home worker. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  2. Comment icon

    Tina Gillett said on

    Thank you Paul for an excellent article. Very useful information and good to hear the homeworking is beneficial for you. The website is very interesting, and I will be keeping an eye to see when it is ready, so I can share with my friends to help them cope with Autism in these very stressful times.

  3. Comment icon

    Paul Crayson said on

    Thank you Tina for your comments. I would welcome you share this blog with whoever may find it useful and interesting.

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