AUTISTIC NICK’S FEAR OF WORKING FROM HOME
Anticipation hung in the air like a thick layer of humidity, for weeks. It like I had known what was coming, but like most things in life I was unprepared for it.
Confirmation didn’t come through immediately but when it did, I shrunk back into a tearful ball of unhappiness.
This is all sounding very dramatic, isn’t it? Well in some respects it is.
For the time being I have been told that I must work from home as the Omnicom numbers here in WA rise.
And initially I was ok with the idea of working from home, but then my inner thoughts took over and I begun losing control over what I was thinking and feeling.
For me as an Autistic person I am finding being in the office once a week a hugely beneficial experience.
I get to build and work on my communication and interaction skills with my work colleagues.
But since I have been told to work from home, I am feeling a huge sense of despair.
Communicating and communication as an Autistic person is a daily struggle, I first have to contend with maintaining eye contact which in itself is a huge obstacle to overcome.
I already have my four-tier approach that I attempt to follow to the letter, although I sometimes forget and slip back to my Autistic traits of avoiding eye contact all together, and abandon it at the side of the road, speeding off in my car hoping never to see it again anytime soon.
MY FOUR-TIER APPROACH
For me, making eye contact can make me feel awkward and uncomfortable. I find it distracts me from listening to the person who is talking to me.
My strategy for overcoming this is to look at some place on that person’s face that is close to the eyes, but not directly into the eyes.
This can be a person’s eyebrows or hairline.
By implementing this I don’t come across as not listening and appearing rude and I can fully focus on the conversation because I don’t feel uncomfortable or distracted.
Allow for pauses in the conversation, to give them me time to think and react and vice versa. You can read more about communicating here (https://autisticnick.com/2018/07/19/being-autistic-the-ins-and-outs/)
Be aware of challenges that I face with reading social cues. Autistic people may not understand facial expressions, body language, hidden implications, or hints—it depends on the individual. It helps to be clear about your thoughts and feelings.
KEEPING TO THE POINT
Stay away from allusions, metaphors, or any abstract statements.
Autistic people in general will not be able to interpret any kind of communication that relies on reading your internal emotional state or any kind of subtext.
Keep your sentences short and direct.
The pace of the conversation needs to be at a level that the Autistic person can maintain.
A handy guide covering all of the above can be found here (https://autisticnick.com/2018/03/23/how-to-talk-to-an-autistic-person/)
So far, I am attempting to look at you directly and read your facial expressions as each week I make it a goal of mine to at least have held a conversation and come away without causing unnecessary offense or read the room or the situation wrong.
All this work that I had put in with the help of my occupational therapist has all come crashing down around me with the stroke of a composed email.
I now live in fear that all this hard work will spectacularly come undone and when/if it’s possible to return to the office I won’t know what to do and how to hold a conversation.
How can I build up these acquired skills that I have when there will be no one to communicate with?
Because having a Zoom meeting isn’t the same as actually being in an office, standing in front of that person having a chat/talk/conversation with them.
It just isn’t. Zoom doesn’t reach out with alerts like “hey I think you may have pissed that person off” or “that wasn’t an appropriate thing to say”.
I am also going to have my structured day removed from me which will no doubt have to be adapted to me working from home.
HOW MY DAY WAS STRUCTERED
- I would come prepared with potential article ideas.
- My mentor and I would have a meeting at 10.30am to discuss those ideas and to see which ones would work best in an article.
- Nick to go away and research, email potential interviewees, etc.
- The mentor to come and check on Nick at 12.30 pm to see what progress he’s made.
- The mentor will be my first contact, if they are busy then my boss and editor is the next person I can go to for advice/help.
- Before Nick leaves for the day, he and his mentor will have a quick meeting to discuss what stage of the article process Nick is at.
- My boss/editor has also informed me that I can as long as I give notice work from home and they will check in on me via Zoom.
- If Nick feels overwhelmed, he can email/text either the mentor or the boss just to let them know that he’s heading outside/to his quiet room.
With all the above slowly being taken away from me or that’s what it felt like, it really hit me hard to deal with all my emotions in one single hit.
I repeat to myself this isn’t your fault, it’s nothing that you’ve done, you have the strategies and tools to deal with this.
I honestly don’t know how long this working from home routine will last for, but I just know that I am going to have to adapt and find a way through it.
CARRY ON THE CONVERSATION
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.