Returning to work and reasonable adjustments

From 1 August employers will have more discretion to make decisions about how their staff can work safely – this will include decisions about whether people can continue to work from home or need to return to office-based working.

We know that many autistic people have found working from home beneficial during the pandemic and may not yet feel able to return to office-based working. Or you may wish to request that when you return to the office certain measures are put in place to enable you as an autistic person to feel supported.

Under the Equality Act, as an autistic person you have a legal right to request adjustments to be made to your workplace to enable you to feel supported in work. These must be ‘reasonable adjustments’ and it may be that that your employer will not be able to provide everything you request.

We have put together a letter for autistic people to use to request a continuation of home working, and other flexible measures, as a reasonable adjustment.

Download our reasonable adjustments letter.

For further advice and support please contact our helpline.

With the help of autistic colleagues, we have created some handy tips for autistic people that are working from home during the lockdown.

Tip One: Create a routine that works for you

  • Try to keep your morning routine the same, even if it’s moved back an hour or so because you don’t have travel time. Get changed every morning, even if it’s putting a different pair of pyjamas on as this aids the transition from “resting/sleep” to “working”
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable, if you are going to be on a video call during the day then wear something you would normally wear to the office on your top half – it may be useful to check with your manager/supervisor about appearance on video calls, it may be that you only need to follow the work dress code when on a video call with external people and internal team calls/1:1 meetings can be more relaxed.
  • If you normally commute to work, try listening to a podcast or reading a book after breakfast before turning the computer on – if you can have a brief walk around the garden to mimic leaving the house and entering the workplace.
  • Add “transition time” or breaks into calendars between calls and tasks to give yourself time to get a drink, use the toilet, stand and stretch! If you have back to back calls in your calendar then at the start of the first call let the other participant know that you need to leave 5 minutes before the end to have a quick personal welfare break before your next call.

Online Schedule

  • Don’t work too late into the evening! It can be really easy to keep working long beyond your normal end time at the moment, especially with the evenings being a lot lighter now, but this isn’t good for mental health – set an alarm on your phone for about 30 minutes after your normal end time to remind you to shut down if you are still working, this is also useful to remind you to have food! The exception to this is if you need to move working hours around for child care and split your working day into “chunks” where you don’t work in the middle of the day but do the rest of your hours in the evening.

Tip Two: Communicate with your manager/supervisor

  • You may find it useful to arrange a 1:1 with your manager/supervisor every Monday morning to go through the tasks expected of you for the week. If your manager/supervisor is unable to do this due to other commitments then it may be useful to email them a list of the tasks you are planning to work on that week.
  • You may also/alternatively find it useful to have a 1:1 or email your manager/supervisor at the end of the working week with an update of how tasks are going and if there is any support you will need the next week.
  • Don’t be afraid to email or call your supervisor/manager if you are struggling – a lot of people are finding things difficult at the moment and its important to let people know when you are having difficulties. This includes if you are having a bad day due to a sensory overload or something has triggered a meltdown – just because we are working from home and have more control over our immediate environment does mean that things don’t still happen and cause us pain and difficulties.
  • Let people know that you need notice of changes to/new meetings going into your calendar: you might need at least 2 days’ notice to be able to prepare for a video call meeting or you prefer Microsoft Teams to Skype – these are reasonable adjustments that your manager/supervisor should be told about and help you with.

Tip Three: Look after your health and wellbeing

  • If you are missing having people around or seeing colleagues then consider setting up weekly calendar events to have a chat with them. If you want to keep it to just work-related things then that’s okay, but let your colleague know, it can be really useful to “offload” about problems to a peer instead of a manager/supervisor sometimes – but be prepared for this to be a mutual exchange and allow your colleague to offload to you in return.
  • Reach out to people – call/message friends and family, chat to people online, take part in organised activities like a mass watching of a tv show episode or join in with creative suggestions like making a rainbow or listing three positive things from the day.
  • Look after your physical health when working – don’t spend too long in the same position without moving. Make sure your workspace is set up appropriately for good back posture (feet flat on the floor, screen at eye level etc) and that your lighting is good – especially if you are doing lots of work on an electronic device. Take regular breaks from the screen, either by going for a short walk round the room or by doing a task away from the device, like writing a list on a bit of paper or reviewing a printed document.
  • In video calls if you prefer not to have your camera on then say! A lot of people are struggling with “video call overload” right now and are switching cameras off after greeting everyone in the call as a way of stopping eyes becoming tired quickly from too much screen usage.
  • Remember to eat and drink properly during the day (providing you are not fasting) – if you need to set alarms and reminders for lunch or use an app that can remind you to drink water during the day. Try not to drink too much caffeine at the moment as we are all generally being less physically active than normal.
  • If you are not in the shielding group then try to leave the house even if it’s just walking down to the bottom of your road and back. Please see here the latest guidance about going out for autistic people. Pick a time of day that’s quiet (avoid “lunch time” and late afternoon) if you are worried about social distancing. Where possible have a window open for at least a few hours each day to allow fresh air to circulate.
  • If you are someone who is normally very active then make time in your day to follow an exercise routine – arrange with your manager/supervisor to work different hours and follow online classes or spend an hour doing your own workout using household items instead! Be careful you don’t push yourself too hard though and cause yourself an injury – but if you do then seek the appropriate medical attention, the NHS is still there for accidents and injuries.

Tip Four: You are not alone!

  • This is a difficult time for most of us at the moment but try to remember that you are not alone in how you are feeling – even those who look like they are managing fine may be really struggling at times. It is not your fault if you are struggling or having a bad day, this is a tough and unexpected situation for so many of us, and everyone is doing brilliantly to have coped so far with all the change and uncertainty!
  • Our helpline is still working, please visit this page for more information.