The NAS say they have seen a rise in organisations reaching out to them to find out how they could better recruit autistic talent and neurodiverse workers, especially outside the IT sector. NAS offers suggestions for small changes, such as ensuring every meeting has an agenda. Agendas and similar tools can help neurodiverse staff focus on the relevant information needed and help people plan things in advance, making the meeting more accessible.
“The things we suggest are good practice for any company, not just people with autism. They aren’t expensive, and are often easy quick wins,” says Maybank. “Employers need to recognise cultures in their organisation and to understand the unwritten rules of their organisation, to help people navigate that.”
Maybank, who has been working with autistic people for the last decade, says she’d like to see more mandatory training for managers around neurodiversity and more buddying programmes to help people create better social links at work. She also feels employers should look at different progression routes for employees who may not want to become managers.
But she says increased awareness of neurodiversity has improved understanding in workplaces. “People are becoming way more open about recognising different strands of autistic and neurodiverse behaviour,” she says. “People have a pre-conceived perception of what autism is, but it’s best to ask that person. People may be opposites of each other despite having the same condition.”
Tailoring new technology
Yet it’s not just increased awareness; remote working and new technologies are also helping to support workers who may previously have struggled to enter the workforce.
Workplace tools including instant messaging platform Slack and list-making application Trello have improved communication for staff who may work outside a standard office environment. These tools can have additional benefits for people on the autistic spectrum, who might find things like face-to-face communication difficult.
Ultranauts has made use of these technologies, as well as creating its own tools to suit staff needs.
“A couples of years ago, a colleague on our team said they wished people came with a user manual,” says Anandan. So that’s exactly what they created, a self-authored guide called a ‘biodex’ which gives colleagues at Ultranauts all the information they need to find the best ways of working with a particular person.
Being flexible about workplace set-up and tailoring company behaviours to cater for autistic needs has been a huge success for Ultranauts, which is beginning to share its experiences on best practice with other companies.
Anandan says he’s learnt that making a workplace inclusive for neurodiverse colleagues hasn’t added friction or inefficiency, but allowed people who have largely been ignored by society to show their true talents. “We’ve shown over and over… that we’ve delivered results better because of the diversity of our team,” he says.