It can allay many fears if you are able to provide an induction timetable to your new employee in advance of them starting work. This can allow your new employee to mentally prepare for the first few weeks in a new role and have some understanding of what is expected of them.
Although it may be difficult to manage, be aware that the time between job offer and starting work can impact negatively on your new employee. For example, whilst references are sought, the start date could be delayed which is difficult for someone on the spectrum who like to be prepared for things in advance. If the time between job offer and starting is too long, it could mean an employee changes their mind about wanting the job. Clear communication during this time can be key.
It can be useful for a new employee to have regular contact with their work mentor during the induction process and beyond, if applicable. This will allow the new employee to ask questions in a safe environment, get live feedback on their progress and feel welcomed to the team. Feedback from project participants is that positive feedback can help to build confidence, allay any worries and feelings of not fitting in and improve employee retention. Some project participants say they find overthinking to be one of their biggest challenges and regular communication can go some way in eradicating this.
Talk to your new employee about any reasonable adjustments they may require to make sure they’re not substantially disadvantaged when doing their job. This is often cost-free and can include considering lighting, temperature or being away from a window. This discussion could lead to an Access to Work Assessment (see next page). Remember that you don’t need to know about a disability to make reasonable adjustments for an employee.
For some employees, it can be useful for them to communicate with their mentor via email rather than face-to-face on occasion as this allows the employee to think out what they would like to say in advance and spend time doing this. For some, this takes away the fear of finding a social situation challenging and they can be more honest in this situation.
Be aware that some people with Autism will require extra processing time when approaching a task. Be aware of the power of being patient and allowing the employee to learn and develop at their own speed as this can improve staff-wellbeing and staff retention. Employees need time to learn the role and the environment such as when breaks can be taken and the quietest times to go for lunch.
Consider that it can be overwhelming to be shown everything at once. Try to balance explaining new tasks across a few weeks with time to take notes if helpful, reflect, ask questions and embed. Planning breaks into this schedule can also be helpful to avoid overload.
Some employees may not want to socialise with other colleagues during breaks and lunchtimes. It can be exhausting for many people on the Spectrum to interact with others and this, coupled with starting a new job, can result in a need to withdraw during breaks and a need to recharge. It does not mean the employee is being rude.
It is excellent practice to provide Autism Awareness training for all staff regardless of whether you have Autistic employees or not. Consider that you have a diverse workforce that you would like to increase and any one of those staff members could be on the Spectrum, formally diagnosed or not. Such training would also benefit customer facing employees and lead towards achieving a Disability Confident award.
Here are some further resources you may find useful:
If you feel that you need to talk to someone urgently then please call the 24/7 Cornwall mental health helpline on 0800 0385 300. You can call for free, any time of day or night, if you are worried about your own or someone else’s mental health. The team behind the 24/7 telephone service will listen to you and determine how best to help. Alternatively, please call the Samaritans on 116 123.