The sudden switch to remote or blended work due to the global coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital accessibility at work – wherever that work takes place (especially for any staff with hidden disabilities). A time of uncertainty is overwhelming for anyone, but for neurodiverse employees unexpected changes can cause additional challenges.
As we continue to work remotely, we’re seeing our colleagues cocooned in the safety of their homes. We’re thankful to our employers for their safeguarding efforts, and feel lucky to have the ability to work from home – we’ve been given that protective barrier that many employees around the world are seeking. But in the midst of it all, it’s important to remember that there are some struggling with this temporary form of reality.
The loss of direct contact with colleagues, a swift change in daily routine, and the complete reliance on technology are just some of the reasons why your neurodiverse employees may be feeling challenged. At Texthelp, working from home is something that’s always been available within our flexible working policies, so we’ve learned some tips and tricks along the way. That’s why we’re sharing a few ideas to help you make sure your staff are comfortable and happy in their home offices…
There are many ways to keep in touch, from video chat to instant messaging, emails and phone calls. If someone has a preferred way of communicating then embrace it. It could make all the difference to anxiety levels and productivity. For example, someone with Asperger’s may find video chats stressful, but it could be preferred by someone with Dyslexia, who finds written communication more time consuming. So take some time to come up with a method that works for you both.
A lot has already changed in a very short space of time, and for employees with Asperger’s or ADHD, for example, this is something that can cause stress. So, coming up with a routine and maintaining that structure is important. Set some time aside to plan out a working day, and be flexible to their needs – it’ll help make sure they maintain a healthy work-life balance that’s organised and harmonious.
As we venture through this time of uncertainty together it’s never been more important to check in on the emotional wellbeing of your employees. Some employees may be overt in their feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious and isolated, but for others expressing emotion can be tough. Regularly checking in to ask how they are feeling opens the door for more emotive conversation, and for someone on the Autistic Spectrum, for example, being direct helps.
Loss of direct contact with colleagues day after day takes time to get used to, but for some people who struggle socially, striking up conversation with someone in the virtual space can be super tough. So, aside from the daily check-in with a Line Manager, why not get creative? Use conference applications like Google Hangouts to get your colleagues together in groups. Have a virtual tea break together, or end of the day drinks to provide a time and space for conversation. It’ll lift morale and help ensure your inclusion practices remain top of the agenda.
With remote working comes the need to be as organised as possible. Technology is our only means of communication, and even though it opens up amazing opportunities, it can also be the cause of frustration for many. We’re only an instant message away and that’s great, but for people with ADHD for example, that availability can affect the ability to focus. It’s important to give employees time to complete tasks – and that means practicing forward-thinking, to remove any last-minute tasks or distractions. Similarly, provide as much detail in initial task instruction so that your employees have what they need to work away, without the need to stop and seek information or advice.
Sometimes when we send an online message, our thoughts can get lost in translation. As we work remotely and are not in direct contact with one another, it’s important to communicate as clearly as possible. Outline expectations with clarity and make sure you’ve been understood as intended. Indeed, this is a way of communicating that is great for literal thinkers day to day, such as people with Asperger’s, but it definitely goes a long way for everyone in the virtual environment.
So far, we’ve given you six ways to help you maintain good communication with your neurodiverse employees, as well as tips for supporting them as they get used to a remote way of working. But, what about tools that help them to actually carry out their work at home?
You may have support in the office that your employees are now working remotely without. Or, maybe the total reliance on technology right now is something that some of your employees are struggling with. The provision of support tools, like Read&Write, helps employees to work in a way that suits their needs. Whether they require literacy support; could use a tool that helps to facilitate their diverse way of processing and comprehending information; or are looking for ways to increase their productivity, assistive technology can bring benefits to everyone.
If you would like more information about unlocking neurodiversity in the workplace, download our free guide.
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