Ergonomic Design Of Workspaces For Employees With Autism

Ergonomic Design Of Workspaces For Employees With Autism

Ergonomic Design Of Workspaces For Employees With Autism

Submitted by: Jane Sandwood

A survey by a team based at Coventry University found that one of the biggest challenges when it comes to designing a shared space for children with autism, is the wide variety of sensitivities each child may have. For instance, some children may y have a significant dislike for certain colors, while others may react more to noise. The same tension between personalization and design for a large team

can be present in workspaces. However, there are many ways that companies can create clever workspaces that bring out the best talents of each employee. These pointers can also be applied to people with autism designing their own workspace as a freelance or contract worker.

 

Taking into account the scope of ergonomics

Mention the word ‘ergonomics’ and the mind may conjure up images of furniture that encourages good posture and comfort. Ensuring that desks, computers, chairs, and foot benches are at the right height and distance, is key. Measuring distances such as the popliteal height (the distance from the underside of the foot to the underside of the thigh at the knees) help avoid repetitive strain injury and tension in the back, neck, and other areas, yet ergonomics has a far wider scope. It involves designing workspaces in such a way that they truly fit the needs of those who work in them. Thus, it takes into accounts various disciplines, including anthropometry, biomechanics, and applied and social psychology. It also focuses on environmental factors that can promote (or wrest from) comfort in a workspace. These factors include noise, light, heat, cold, hearing, vision, sensations – factors which can be determinative indeed of both comfort and work performance, for those with autism.

Acoustics make a difference

In large offices, it may be difficult to adapt common areas to specialized needs. However, there is plenty that can be done in individual workspaces to reduce distraction and bother. Those on the autism spectrum can be

very sensitive to sound. Therefore, their offices should be well insulated and provide them with the opportunity to adjust sound pressure levels. The Building Design + Construction Network recommends adding pink sound, which contains all the frequencies audible to humans, and is soothing to some people on the spectrum. Offices should ideally be located away from the street, since building works, traffic, etc. can be distressing. Internal noises in the office such as clocks ticking, meanwhile, should be kept to a minimum.

It is important for companies to be aware of possible needs as well as to have open communication with their employees. Some people with autism need space to rock or swing since it relaxes them; others are soothed by touching their back to a wall; still, others need open space. Design should accommodate the personal needs that can make all the difference in terms of comfort within the office. Lighting should also be personalized to the greatest extent possible because some people can require more stimulating colors, while others can feel more comfortable with cool, or neutral colors. Fluorescent lights that flash at 60Hz can be very distressing to some, so it is vital to make a list of the different needs, most of which the office can easily adapt to with minimal cost.

Where to place an office

Sensory overload can be difficult for people with autism to bear. Therefore, their offices should not be near specific rooms that can cause sensory distress. The kitchen, for instance, can emit strong smells and produce noise (e.g. when other employees use cutlery or the microwave to heat meals). Transition spaces such as corridors can also be difficult for persons with autism. If possible, therefore, the employee’s office should be near an entrance, so they don’t have to walk through a long corridor to get to their desk.

Office design

It is important for companies to be aware of possible needs as well as to have open communication with their employees. Some people with autism need space to rock or swing since it relaxes them; others are soothed by touching their back to a wall; still, others need open space. Design should accommodate the personal needs that can make all the difference in terms of comfort within the office. Lighting should also be personalized to the greatest extent possible because some people can require more stimulating colors, while others can feel more comfortable with cool, or neutral colors. Fluorescent lights that flash at 60Hz can be very distressing to some, so it is vital to make a list of the different needs, most of which the office can easily adapt to with minimal cost.

For employees with autism, anything that affects the senses (e.g. smell, visual elements, space, touch) can be crucial when it comes to building a truly ergonomic space. Employees who are committed to creating an autism-friendly space will have to realize from the outset that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Rather, a meeting should be had with employees to elicit ways to make improvements. Often, distress can be quelled by making a few small changes to lighting, layout or even the positioning of an office. Creativity, commitment, and innovation go a long way towards building a company that knows how to bring the best out of each and every employee.

 

By |2018-06-20T09:58:57+00:00June 20th, 2018|Blog|0 Comments

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