Dear Employers from literally every large or small business or workplace venue on the planet, please consider the following list of recommendations for how to meet the medical as well as professional needs of people with Aspergers as a rudimentary template of how to support employees struggling with the impact of things like PTSD, seemingly sourceless anxiety and C-PTSD that tend to form after exposure to trauma in their personal or professional lives.
People who have been brutalized at home or on the streets tend to present with unique personality affectations. If you are seeking to hire or to maintain the most loyal, devoted, and hard-working workforce on the planet, consider hiring people who have been the victim of trauma but who show up to work every day and are diligently striving to overcome it.
People who are going through or have gone through intense marital or familial strife but still continue to have a positive attitude in life are the most wonderful candidates to mindfully choose to socially support or to hire and meet their professional needs. By asking employees what types of things would help them be more productive and satisfied with their jobs — ASIDE from the obvious offer of increasing their pay — a workplace tempo can be created that literally functionally coordinates staff work-flow in wholly pro-social, ultimately fiscally as well as employee health and social wealth producing ways.
People who have C-PTSD issues due to physical assaults, for instance, might suffer from heightened anxiety forced to sit in a cubicle where someone can walk up behind them and startle them from the back. Moving furniture or seat assignments to people’s preference areas is a simple low to no dollar fix.
Someone might be bothered terribly by something like overhead fluorescent lights. Swapping bulbs in the office to natural light tends to improve the health and performance of everyone in an office — but when something like that is not yet fiscally practical or there are lighting fixtures in place that cannot be changed to bulbs that do away with things like glare from artificial light with something likely to avoid creating medical issues like headaches or Seasonal Affective Disorder parallels in health, moving the employee who is showing signs of discomfort and stress due to sitting under the humming glare of a light source that harms them to a place with natural sunlight (or at least moving their desk to a space not directly under it and getting them a Happy Lamp for their desk can be a merciful act that physically improves the employees health in the immediate.
Many people forced to deal with cantankerous elderly relatives or people in their family who are toxic and who are prone to verbally abusing others should never be paired in a workplace near a person who has that same sort of personality disorder. The person who is likely to situationally abuse their own family members is also likely to go out of their way to bait, provoke, and to taunt targeted co-workers who they notice physically recoil when they speak.
Is there a place for a loud-mouthed bully in the office who lives to taunt other human beings — then to blame the victim for reacting by shaming them, claiming they are the problem and being overly sensitive or unprofessional? In a perfect world — NO. But in a world where such people have things like tenure or union jobs and cannot be let go… or one in which that person happens to have a unique specialty skill — they are absolutely a necessary part of the workforce. As a smart employer with high EQ as well as IQ in their Human Resource department, people with such personality types that are likely to behave like sycophants to a high up then to torment and lie about what they have done or to gaslight about how they bait and provoke duress in co-workers to make their own day more “fun” should have their social sphere of influence in ANY personal or professional environments contained.
People likely to feel attacked, undermined, targeted, bullied, and provoked by such people should be allowed to work as a team together free from that person’s physical influence — limiting contact to an only “as needed” basis. Moving him (or her) to a different place in the office working with people who find such types entertaining rather than triggering, upsetting, undermining, or demoralizing is the easiest way to create workplace success for the greatest number of individuals. If an antagonist is left constantly vexing and sabotaging protagonists who they peg for easy to rattle, understand the entire workforce from a health and professional success standpoint will suffer.
Think about the employee who is an introvert and kind or prone to being a compulsive truth-teller. Is that person likely to excel in, say, a sales position going up against ruthless people with extroverted Alpha Predator personality types? If they are forced to compete, what will be the result to their health and social psychology — knowing even if they step up to the plate to physically perform they are likely to not only hate their job and to despise their co-workers, that doing things like spinning marketing angles is likely to make them hate themselves on the inside? Getting someone into the right match for their personality type and preference related to the type of work that they do is essential to running a successful crew. There’s merit in making sure everyone has a fundamental understanding of other people’s jobs — but so they can appreciate where they themselves truly excel while learning to appreciate services people who have different personality types can and should be allowed to perform.
Simple common sense, humanitarian-level fixes to workplace environments oftentimes can make or break not only single employees but also entire organizations. Have a person on staff who hates loud noises? Might not want to put them in a physical area close to someone who constantly bellows. Have a person who is far happier telecommuting because the noise and chit-chat of other people in an office environment totally stresses them out physically and slows them down? Start setting up ways they can be paid for work according to projects and incremental or piece work. Send them home and let them off the hourly clock.
The more we ask individual employees what would make their workday more pleasant, happy, and successful, then really listen to their answers, the better we all become as not only EMPLOYERS but also as co-workers. The reason why corporations who strategically oversee the needs of personal and have responsive management teams tend to do better professionally is because human lives matter — respectively. People are more than just a social security number or a title.
People who leave a tough environment they were born into or are married to at home tend to greatly appreciate being able to come to work and to give it their all. Work — for many people — is the place where they feel as if they can excel. But when someone comes to work and is assaulted by things like noise, stress inducing people, angry customers, unsupportive co-workers, workplace strife, people with Cluster B personality types being allowed to target captive prey dependent on a paycheck for social terrorism, uncomfortable or distress-producing seat assignments, a lack of ergonomic flow in the workplace in general, disorganization, people who are sick but come to work and spread germs instead of being allowed to work from home on those days on other projects that could be kept open in a kitty of tasks for people who seek hours but should not have direct access to the public or other staff if they have something like a cold or the flu… all these things should be considered on a daily basis and team members allowed to have the opportunity to self-advocate to make the entire office energy new.
The following list has been excerpted from an article titled “Accommodation Ideas”. It was written to provide springboard ideas about how to accommodate people with Asperger’s in the workforce, noting that when companies hire people who are likely to thrive once their specific self-care needs are met they tend to make incredibly productive as well as loyal employees.
The same can be said for people who have C-PTSD — noting that having a safe place to work (emotionally and physically) for victims of any form of abuse or misuse includes having a right to go to the office and not be forced to overcome physical challenges produced by things like light bulbs, obnoxious and ill-tempered co-workers seeking to torment and ultimately to get their preferred scapegoats fired or to quit, or silly things like being forced to sit in the middle of a room in a cubicle with people walking behind you that make you jump out of your skin… especially when desks or seating assignments can be collaboratively rearranged for everyone’s emotional comfort and biological benefit.
Bottom line, how well any employer caters to the personal needs of individual staff with a collective emphasis on creating a workplace environment that meets everyone’s needs to the best of the organization’s ability, the more likely they are to not only prosper financially but to also build social clout as being a fantastic group, person, team, corporate entity, or any form of civic organization to work not only with but also FOR.
The fastest way to figure out how to improve any employee’s health and work performance is to first… get to know them in general without needing specifics, then to actually figure out ways to support them. Someone who is extroverted will likely fail to thrive working alone at a desk for 8 hours at a clip. Someone stresses out at home in a noisy environment might be super productive being allowed to cherry pick the same position. And someone who cannot handle the drive to the office but loves to be part of a team is likely to make a fabulous and reliable telecommuter — able to come in to the office for any must attend event but who can log in via SKYPE or a log in workplace sharing format to attend meetings from home (with or without needing to place themselves on a camera). And someone who loves being around positive and uplifting people should never be forced to interact socially or to have to listen to the tirading of a toxic, negative, or bullying prone individual.
Take a peek at the following list of accommodations for Aspies and think this through.
If you are an EMPLOYER or in a supervisory and or a managerial position, what little tweaks could you make in the everyday goings on in an office related to things like ergonomics and workflow that could make your employees day — and thereby their productivity — higher?
But more so… if you are a person reading this page because you are striving to endure or to recover from Narcissistic Abuse, think through what could YOU do to make your own day or work shift easier for you to tolerate in general? A little creative self-advocacy can go a long way if you are an employee with an easy fix for a personal bugaboo that is negatively impacting your personally and professionally at work.
Employers who listen and are willing to seek a win-win solution for everyone are the best human beings in the world to work for as well. Keep that in mind the next time you are seeking a new person to hire or when managing a professional space. Notice we did not say managing PEOPLE. Letting people find their water level as a team at the water cooler and keeping a close eye on how they interact can help any team leader or manager know just what to do when people have needs related to personal issues. Noticing little things about people’s personality types and physical comfort needs goes a long way to improving the quality of supervising a team.
And, if you HAVE C-PTSD or are Aspie yourself, simply knowing the following list of common examples of workplace accommodations can be a real gift. Not only are you not alone in having interpersonal or sensory issues related to workplace environments, there are actually other human beings as well as employers who have found successful ways to cope with the physical aspects of the conditions.
If you are feeling especially froggy, print out this article and pin to the bulletin board at work by the water cooler or leave it on the table discreetly in the break room to let other office professionals know that where there’s a will, there’s a way. We’re all in this TOGETHER.
Accommodating Employees with ASD
Excerpt from AskJan.org
(Note: People with ASD may experience some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with ASD will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.)
Questions to Consider:
- What limitations does the employee with ASD experience?
- How do these limitations affect the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine accommodations?
- Can the employee with ASD provide information on possible accommodation solutions?
- Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee with ASD to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training regarding ASD?
- Individuals with ASD may have difficulty communicating with co-workers or supervisors.
- Provide advance notice of topics to be discussed in meetings to help facilitate communication
- Provide advance notice of date of meeting when employee is required to speak to reduce or eliminate anxiety
- Allow employee to provide written response in lieu of verbal response
- Allow employee to have a friend or coworker attend meeting to reduce or eliminate the feeling of intimidation
- Allow employee to bring an advocate to performance reviews and disciplinary meetings
- Atypical Body Movements:
- Individuals with ASD may exhibit atypical body movements such as fidgeting. Atypical body movements are sometimes called stimulatory behavior, or “stimming.” These body movements often help calm the person or assist in concentrating on tasks, but can also disturb coworkers at times.
- Provide structured breaks to create an outlet for physical activity
- Allow employee to use items such as hand-held squeeze balls and similar objects to provide sensory input or calming effect
- Allow the employee to work from home
- Schedule periodic rest breaks away from the workstation
- Review conduct policy with employee
- Provide private workspace where employee will have room to move about and not disturb others by movements such as fidgeting
- Time Management:
- Individuals with ASD may experience difficulty managing time. This limitation can affect their ability to complete tasks within a specified timeframe. It may also be difficult to prepare for, or to begin, work activities.
- Divide large assignments into several small tasks
- Set a timer to make an alarm after assigning ample time to complete a task
- Provide a checklist of assignments
- Supply an electronic or handheld organizer and train how to use effectively
- Use a wall calendar to emphasize due dates
- Maintaining Concentration:
- Individuals with ASD may experience decreased concentration and may not be able to tolerate distractions such as office traffic, employee chatter, and common office noises such as fax tones and photocopying.
- To reduce auditory distractions:
- Purchase a noise canceling headset
- Hang sound absorption panels
- Provide a white noise machine
- Relocate employee’s office space away from audible distractions
- Redesign employee’s office space to minimize audible distractions
- To reduce visual distractions:
- Install space enclosures (cubicle walls)
- Reduce clutter in the employee’s work environment
- Redesign employee’s office space to minimize visual distractions
- Relocate employee’s office space away from visual distractions
- To reduce tactile distractions:
- Instruct other employees to approach the individual in a way that is not startling, such as approaching from behind, touching the employee, or other tactile interactions, if the employee is bothered by those interactions.
- Organization and Prioritization:
- Individuals with ASD may have difficulty getting or staying organized, or have difficulty prioritizing tasks at work. The employee may need assistance with skills required to prepare and execute complex behavior like planning, goal setting, and task completion.
- Develop color-code system for files, projects, or activities
- Use weekly chart to identify daily work activities
- Use the services of a professional organizer
- Use a job coach to teach/reinforce organization skills
- Assign a mentor to help employee
- Allow supervisor to prioritize tasks
- Assign new project only when previous project is complete
- Provide a “cheat sheet” of high-priority activities, projects, people, etc.
- Individuals with ASD may experience memory deficits that can affect their ability to complete tasks, remember job duties, or recall daily actions or activities. They also may have difficulty recognizing faces.
- Provide written instructions
- Allow additional training time for new tasks
- Offer training refreshers
- Prompt employee with verbal cues
- Use a flowchart to describe the steps involved in a complicated task (such as powering up a system, closing down the facility, logging into a computer, etc.)
- Provide pictorial cues
- Use post-it notes as reminders of important dates or tasks
- Safely and securely maintain paper lists of crucial information such as passwords
- Allow employee to use voice activated recorder to record verbal instructions
- Provide employee directory with pictures or use nametags and door/cubicle name markers to help employee remember coworkers’ faces and names
- Encourage employee to ask (or email) work-related questions
- Individuals with ASD may experience difficulty performing many tasks at one time. This difficulty could occur regardless of the similarity of tasks, the ease or complexity of the tasks, or the frequency of performing the tasks.
- Create a flow-chart of tasks that must be performed at the same time
- Separate tasks so that each one can be completed one at a time
- Label or color-code each task in sequential or preferential order
- Provide individualized/specialized training to help employee learn techniques for multi-tasking (e.g., typing on computer while talking on phone)
- Identify tasks that must be performed simultaneously and tasks that can be performed individually
- Provide specific feedback to help employee target areas of improvement
- Remove or reduce distractions from work area
- Supply proper working equipment to complete multiple tasks at one time, such as workstation and chair, lighting, and office supplies
- Explain performance standards such as completion time or accuracy rates
- Issues of Change:
- Recognize that a change in the office environment, job tasks, or of supervisors may be difficult for a person with autism
- Maintain open channels of communication between the employee and the new and old supervisor in order to ensure an effective transition
- Provide weekly or monthly meetings with the employee to discuss workplace issues and productions levels
- Stress Management:
- Individuals with ASD may have difficulty managing stress in the workplace. Situations that create stress can vary from person to person, but could likely involve heavy workloads, unrealistic timeframes, shortened deadlines, or conflict among coworkers.
- Provide praise and positive reinforcement
- Refer to EAP
- Allow employee to make telephone calls for support
- Provide sensitivity training for workforce
- Allow the presence and use of a support animal
- Modify work schedule
- Social Skills:
- People with ASD may have difficulty exhibiting typical social skills on the job. This might manifest itself as interrupting others when working or talking, difficulty listening, not making eye contact when communicating, or difficulty interpreting typical body language or nonverbal innuendo. This can affect the person’s ability to adhere to conduct standards, work effectively with supervisors, or interact with coworkers or customers.
- Social skills on the job:
- Provide a job coach to help understand different social cues
- Provide concrete examples of accepted behaviors and consequences for all employees
- Recognize and reward acceptable behavior to reinforce
- Review conduct policy with employee to reduce incidents of unacceptable behavior
- Use training videos to demonstrate appropriate social skills in workplace
- Encourage all employees to model appropriate social skills
- Use role-play scenarios to demonstrate appropriate social skills in workplace
- Working effectively with supervisors:
- Provide detailed day-to-day guidance and feedback
- Offer positive reinforcement
- Identify areas of improvement for employee in a fair and consistent manner
- Provide clear expectations and the consequences of not meeting expectations
- Give assignments verbally, in writing, or both, depending on what would be most beneficial to the employee (e.g., use of visual charts)
- Assist employee in assigning priority to assignments
- Assign projects in a systematic and predictable manner
- Establish long term and short term goals for employee
- Adjust supervisory method by modifying the manner in which conversations take place, meetings are conducted, or discipline is addressed
- Interacting with coworkers:
- Provide sensitivity training to promote disability awareness
- Allow employee to work from home when feasible
- Help employee “learn the ropes” by providing a mentor
- Make employee attendance at social functions optional
- Allow employee to transfer to another workgroup, shift, or department
- Encourage employees to minimize personal conversation or move personal conversation away from work areas
- Provide telework, or work-at-home, as an accommodation
- Allow alternative forms of communication between coworkers, such as e-mail, instant messaging, or text messaging
- Sensory Issues:
- Individuals with ASD may have difficulty with sensory processing and can experience oversensitivity to touch, sights, sounds, and smells in the workplace.
- Fragrance sensitivity:
- Maintain good indoor air quality
- Discontinue the use of fragranced products
- Use only unscented cleaning products
- Provide scent-free meeting rooms and restrooms
- Modify workstation location
- Modify the work schedule
- Allow for fresh air breaks
- Provide an air purification system
- Modify or create a fragrance-free workplace policy
- Allow telework
- Fluorescent light sensitivity:
- Move employee to a private area to allow for personal adjustment to appropriate lighting
- Change lighting completely
- Allow telework
- Noise sensitivity:
- Move employee to a more private area or away from high traffic areas
- Move employee away from office machinery, equipment, and other background noises
- Provide an environmental sound machine to help mask distracting sounds
- Provide noise canceling headsets
- Provide sound absorption panels
- Encourage coworkers to keep non-work related conversation to a minimum
- Allow telework
- Company Structure, Conduct Policy, and Discipline:
- Individuals with ASD may not be familiar with or understand abstract concepts like corporate structure, hierarchies of responsibility, reporting requirements, and other structural elements of the workplace.
- Explain corporate structure to employee, using visual charts and clear descriptions of positions and reporting structure. Do not assume that employee will understand structure from a simple chart of job titles
- Review conduct policy with employee
- Adjust method of supervision to better prepare employee for feedback, disciplinary action, and other communication about job performance
- Provide concrete examples to explain expected conduct
- Provide concrete examples to explain consequences of violating company policy
- Use services of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if available
Situations and Solutions:
An employee with ASD works for a large marketing firm. Though knowledgeable in her field, she had difficulty participating in work activities with her team. JAN suggested job restructuring, which allowed her to work independently while providing information to her team electronically. This gave the employee the social distance she needed to be comfortable, yet also provided the team with information needed to move forward with marketing campaigns.
A new hire at a fast-food restaurant has ASD. He completed his new job tasks quickly and efficiently, but then remained idle until someone told him the next task to perform. The manager complained that the employee “just stands around” and “looks bored.” JAN suggested the use of a job coach to help learn the job and how to stay occupied during down time. JAN also suggested using a training DVD to help build workplace social skills.
An applicant with ASD applied for a research position with a chemical company. He has a verbal communication deficit, though can communicate through handwriting and by email. The employer wanted to provide accommodations during the first stage interview, which involved answering questions from a three-person search committee. JAN suggested providing the questions in advance and allowing the applicant to furnish written responses during the interview.
A professor with ASD had difficulty keeping daily office hours and experienced anxiety because the timing of students’ consultations was unpredictable. JAN suggested modifying the schedule as an accommodation, for example the professor could reduce the number of days he has office hours, but have more office hours on those days. JAN also suggested adjusting the method by which students obtain appointments, asking students to schedule at least one day in advance and when possible, allow the professor to conduct consultations electronically, by phone, or by instant messenger. In addition, JAN suggested documenting each student consultation to ease the professor’s anxiety about the meeting and to refresh his memory about previous meetings with the student.