Written by Nina Parson – Director of Psychology

Awareness of autism, a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition has certainly grown over the last 10 years.  How we understand autism has also changed with a recognition of the talents autists can bring to the workplace. Many organisations are keen to promote neuro-inclusion, including developing training programmes or summer internships to attract autistic graduates.

These positive changes in recruitment strategies are leading the way in changing perceptions and removing stigma, however there can be unintentional  challenges faced by autistic individuals in the workplace so whilst there may be a really positive selection process ant the onboarding stage where support is abundant and many autists will go on a flourish in their careers, there will be some individuals who require support and adjustments to enable them to continue to demonstrate the talents that shined during the recruitment and selection process. Continuity of support is key.

Take the traditional office environment, one of the key identifying characteristics with autism is sensory sensitivity, the extent to which someone experiences heighted levels of sensitivity can vary, but typical examples can relate to environmental challenges such as bright lights, noisy open plan offices, strong smells from an open plan kitchen or even standard issue clothing.


It’s like having the lights on full and the volume turned to maximum and lots of static in between. 


These heightened sensitivities can have a significant impact on day-to-day functioning, causing stress, anxiety, depression, and a sense of complete overwhelm.

In relation to this another key characteristic associated with Autism is a need for routine, structure and set ways of working.  Given the day-to-day sensory challenges autists face awareness of these sensitivities enables their neurotypical colleagues and line manager to empathise and bring greater understanding how this may also feed into an Autistic colleague’s preference for consistency, structure and control over their work tasks and output.

Being aware of some of these challenges and being open to making adaptions to the work environment to support autistic colleagues can go some way to enable them to thrive at work.

Creating an organisational culture of positive acceptance with clear visibility of inclusive practices, is likely to lead to more people feeling comfortable to disclose a challenge or disability.  Although there is no obligation to disclose, by creating an environment at work that is accepting of individual difference and individual needs, where support is offered in collaboration, this is likely to lead to greater job satisfaction and more productive staff.

If a colleague does disclose there are several ways you can support. This should start with an informal conversation about any challenges that have been identified. This may be working in an open plan office or due to a promotion, the role requirements changed, and this may have highlighted some challenges. By conducting a workplace needs assessment an assessor will work with the employee and their line manager to identify areas of challenge and potential causes such as the work environment or specific work tasks.

The resulting workplace needs assessment report can become the basis for adjustments. But putting adjustments in place does not end there, regular reviews and check-ins are essential to ensure the recommendations are having the desired effect.

By working collaboratively, the line manager and their autistic colleague can ensure support is ongoing and appropriate. It may be just minor changes are required, but by being proactive and seeking to provide a culture of inclusion and support can make a stark difference to performance.


PAM Wellness Solutions is a Disability and Neurodiversity Confident Leader and employer. We are proud to offer an extensive range of high-quality services to create neuro-inclusive cultures at work and provide psychological support services so neurodivergent talent can flourish. We encourage employers to celebrate and promote awareness of autism in the workplace throughout April, which is autism awareness month.