Autistics Working From Home – A Blessing or a Curse?

Breaking news spread across our socials like wildfire. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson was to make a national statement regarding the United Kingdoms approach to slowing the spread of Covid 19 and as a nation we were instructed to work from home unless you are a key worker. As we’re seven months into this pandemic we are all aware of that. As an autistic individual I wanted to share my perspective on how I’ve found working from home and I also have quotes from two other autistic women with their views on this subject.

Prior to the pandemic I was beginning to settle into the world of work. I began volunteering in AP Cymru’s charity shop in June 2019 where I gained new skills and formed friendships. In early February I moved into the office to begin planning the Chameleon Project. I was really enjoying settling into my new role and I was finally starting to understand office banter. (Thank you literal brain!)

As the news was announced naturally I felt anxious, but I also felt positive about continuing to work from home. I felt motivated to work on continuing my professional development, learn new skills and like the saying goes ‘Keep calm and carry on.’

However, it didn’t quite work out that way. I started to feel anxious, de-motivated and unproductive. As I spoke to other autistic individuals they felt similarly and a theme emerged.

I spoke to AP Cymru’s founder Karen and I asked her how she felt about working from home as an Autistic individual herself and as a mother. This is what she had to say:

‘As an autistic woman I struggle with change. Not only has my family routine changed, but also my work routine. My family are also on the spectrum so it’s been helpful that we all understand and support each other’s struggles. Our fantastic team at AP Cymru are majority neurodiverse, which has its challenges and of course its blessings. 

My home is my safe, my family is also my safe. To work from home is a blessing but also a curse. Autism makes me passionate for my cause, often having limited boundaries between home life and working life. Working in a working environment means I have a little time to ‘change hats’ from my work hat to wife and mum hat.

However, working from home means having to wear both hats at all times which means lines are blurred and there is no black and white. Living within the grey area causes me huge anxiety. Once I begin a new routine and start to manage the anxiety, guess what? Lockdown ends and it all goes back to how it was.

Change and new beginnings can be positive with the right people around you which I am very lucky to have in my life. Stay safe everyone.’

I also spoke to Vicky who is a Neurodiversity blogger, researcher and speaker. Also known as @actuallyaspling, she stated:

‘Honestly, I’ve found working from home a challenge. Trying to keep up with any routine and balance has been difficult. I like to keep my work space separate from my home space, but since working at home it’s all blurred into one. I’m too distracted and don’t have the motivation I used too. I’m plodding on, but it’s not really the same’. 

The difficulties that I have found from working at home are:

  • Creating set routines and the loss of structure.
  • Distractions – the horrendous hum of the hoover, the dog barking at the deliveries, ooh look, a shiny stim toy, the news!
  • The lack of transition from work to home. I tend to compartmentalise – in my head the office environment = work and home = my safe and relaxing space.

However, there are always positives. I have personally enjoyed having the time to learn new things and I am very lucky that with my role within the charity I have flexibility to gain these skills. Some autistics may feel that working from home is better suited to them. The unemployment gap for autistics is high due to lack of understanding within the work environment which is something Team AP are eager to educate others about.  We may struggle with working environments and the social aspects of work, so working from home could be an excellent solution to break that unemployment gap.

There has been a lot to adapt to in terms of the world of work and it has been difficult to adjust to. Although it may take some time I am looking forward to returning to the office with Team AP, but I am also excited to see what we can achieve as a team during these difficult times.

Thank you for reading.

Stay safe and well.