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    Private GP Services & Occupational Healthcare in Edinburgh, UK.

    How autism-friendly is your workplace?

    How autism-friendly is your workplace?

    Posted on March 20th, 2024

    According to the National Autistic Society more than one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK. Much progress has been made in recent years to raise awareness of neurodiversity but if we look at the latest UK government figures, there is still lots more work to be done in terms of embracing autism in the workplace:

    • Just 15% of autistic adults are in full-time employment and only 9% are in part-time employment
    • 79% of autistic adults on out-of-work benefits said they wanted to work
    • 43% of autistic adults said they had left or lost a job because of their autism

    How do we turn these figures around? At YourGP, we believe it all starts with employers taking the lead and making reasonable adjustments in the workplace to ensure it is more autism-friendly. And the Occupational Health experts at YourGP are here to show you how…

    What is autism?

    According to Scottish Autism, autism can be defined as “a lifelong, developmental condition that affects the way a person communicates, interacts and processes information”.

    Some autistic people may have subtle differences in their thinking and processing style whilst others will have more complex needs and require more support. Therefore, every autistic person should be viewed as an individual with their own unique skills and talent.

    Why the workplace needs to change

    For too long, many neurodiverse employees have been held back from reaching their full potential in the workplace. But by making simple adjustments, we can create happier and more productive working environments for autistic people to thrive in. This will benefit not just autistic workers, but also those who do not have a formal diagnosis, those who may not be aware of their autism, or those who lack the confidence to speak up and ask for the help they need.

    10 ways to make your workplace more autism-friendly

    1. Interview process: Inclusion should be at the heart of your business ethos from day one, and that starts at the interview stage. Keep any waiting times to an absolute minimum to reduce anxiety. Ask precise questions, or supply questions ahead of the interview so candidates know what to expect.
    2. Company policies: All rules and expectations should be written and communicated clearly.
    3. Staff training: All managers and staff should receive autism awareness training to increase understanding and quash any preconceived, outdated or prejudiced opinions.
    4. Sensory issues: Where possible, reduce sensory input, replacing fluorescent strip lights with softer lights, making the most of any natural light, and ditching the radio if background noise is deemed disruptive. Some employees may prefer a desk on their own, rather than sharing or hot desking. Think carefully about the location of the employee’s workstation – choose somewhere they won’t be interrupted by people accessing the kitchen or toilet for example.
    5. Quiet area: If it is not possible to reduce the sensory input in the main workspace, create a quiet break-out area for employees to retreat to if they need some time-out.
    6. Clear tasks: When setting tasks make sure they are clear and unambiguous. Avoid unnecessary extra details, difficult to interpret facial expressions or non-verbal cues or nuances. Check to ensure all instructions have been understood.
    7. Work schedule: Create a clear work schedule and provide tools such as visual timetables or organiser apps to help prioritise tasks and deadlines. Stick to routines by ensuring meetings don’t run over time, for example.
    8. Meetings: Provide an overview of what topics will be covered in the meeting and whether or not the employee will be expected to contribute.
    9. Advance notice: If any changes need to be made to work schedules or the workplace itself, give plenty of notice to help employees cope with the change.
    10. Socialising: Whilst some people might enjoy after-work drinks with colleagues, not everyone does, so don’t make socialising compulsory. Similarly, don’t expect everyone to sit together in the staff room to mingle during breaks and lunchtime – some employees might prefer some alone time.

    Want to discuss this further?

    For more tailored advice on how to make your business more autism-friendly, speak to the Occupational Health professionals at YourGP. Simply email occhealth@your.gp and we’ll be happy to arrange an appointment at a time that works for you.

    I was warmly greeted by staff with genuine smiles. The staff made me feel very comfortable and engaged me in conversation about several topics which made waiting pass very pleasantly. I noticed they were proactive in making each person who arrived feel welcome, including the courier.

    Jill

    YourGP is regulated by Healthcare Improvement Scotland – the regulator for independent healthcare services across Scotland. Healthcare Improvement Scotland accepts complaints at any time. Contact them at:

    Independent Healthcare Team
    Gyle Square | 1 South Gyle Crescent | Edinburgh | EH12 9EB
    0131 623 4342 | his.ihcregulation@nhs.scot

    YourGP is registered with the Joint Council of Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) Registered Office: Station Road, North Street, Havant PO9 1QU.