I’ve long worried about how my autistic son will fare when he enters the workforce. He’s got the sort of autism that used to be known as Asperger’s syndrome: On the one hand, he’s extraordinarily brilliant, incredibly friendly and can do anything he sets his mind to.
Yet his sensory challenges and unique style of social interactions mean that the traditional workplace could be difficult for him. From the overload caused by ambient noise and fluorescent lights to the anxiety of constant conversation, there is a lot about conventional offices that can be challenging for people on the autism spectrum.
It always seemed my son would be more comfortable working on his own, in an environment and on a schedule he could control—but those are options that many people don’t get.
Covid, though, has rewritten the possibilities. By normalizing remote work for everybody, the pandemic has made it easier for people who don’t adapt well to office environments to thrive. The longtime resistance to supporting remote accommodations for disabled employees evaporated when neurotypical (i.e., not autistic) people had to work from home.
At the same time, the growing awareness of neurodiversity—the idea that humans aren’t all wired the same way, and that differences like autism and ADHD also come with unique strengths—means there is more appreciation for what neurodivergent employees can contribute.