When searching for autistic-friendly jobs, the physical layout of an office space can also be a critical consideration. Open office plans are common in many workspaces today, even though they are proven to make it harder to be productive. They’re even more challenging for #actuallyautistic people, however. A divider-free layout can easily become a boundary-less sensory minefield. Here are four tactics you can use to avoid sensory overload and make your job autistic-friendly.
1. Re-arrange your workspace
Let’s say you arrive for your very first day of work and your manager shows you to a desk in the middle of a crowded workspace. Think about what types of physical elements help you focused and centered. There’s nothing wrong with bringing in a mini divider or using fabric to create a cubicle effect. Also, take as much ownership over the color scheme and object orientation of your workspace as you can. Some employers put office supplies or other objects out as a default; don’t be afraid to bring in stimming toys, move things around, and make the space yours.
2. Always keep a pair of headphones at your desk
Communication tools like Slack mean that you can get a colleague’s attention without physically going up to them to ask a question. A pair of noise-canceling headphones can make the difference between a productive workday and an exhausting one. You can also try the noise-isolating option, which reduces the amount of sound you hear. If you have regular headphones on you, try playing a type of music that blocks out outside noise without breaking your focus. For some people, that’s classical; for others, it’s music in a different language, movie scores, or techno.
3. Practice setting boundaries with coworkers
If coworkers are frequently interrupting you, encroaching on your workspace, or doing anything else that’s preventing you from being productive, let them know! A polite way to do so is to be clear, calm, and direct in stating your need, e.g. “Would you mind sending me an email? I’m on a roll right now and would love to finish this project.” or “I’d be happy to connect with you about this afternoon – feel free to put some time on my calendar!”
4. Ask HR or your boss for accommodations
When asking for accommodations, especially in companies that don’t have a formal HR department, it’s best to be as specific as possible about what you need. Try asking for adjusted hours if you just can’t focus in an open office and you need to come in earlier to get work done. You can also ask for the use of a backup space, such as a spare office or an area of your workplace that isn’t too crowded.
When looking for autistic friendly jobs, don’t let an open office deter you from doing work you really love! With a little bit of creativity and proactivity, you can make your office space work for you.