A Wiltshire worker is sharing his experience of autism to promote the benefits of an inclusive workplace.
Guy Jones works in the customer accounts department of renewable energy company Good Energy. He struggled in previous jobs for many years, partly due to a lack of understanding of the condition among former colleagues, but a culture of inclusion at the Chippenham business means he is finally able to thrive. He now describes his time at work as “absolutely awesome”.
Guy is sharing his story as part of World Autism Acceptance Week this week, culminating in World Autism Awareness Day this Sunday 2 April.
Guy, aged 35, wasn’t diagnosed until he was an adult, but he always knew that he struggled in certain situations.
He said: “When I was a kid I used to come home from school or playing with friends and revisit everything that was said and done that day, especially everything that I had said and done, playing it back in my mind to understand it all.
“I was constantly having to interpret everything around me which meant I struggled socially, but I assumed that’s what everyone else was doing too so I didn’t know I was any different. I just assumed I wasn’t as good at communicating as others.”
It was only when he was made redundant and started looking for another job that his autism – and his lack of awareness of it – started to become more challenging.
Face-to-face interviews were uncomfortable as he was unable to pick up on some visual clues and expressions, and he didn’t like dealing with anything unexpected.
He became increasingly stressed and depressed, until his wife Sarah suggested the difficulties were probably due to his autism – this was a shock to Guy as he’d never heard of the condition, but his wife hadn’t mentioned it before as it had never been an issue.
Guy said: “I started doing lots of internet searches and suddenly it all started to make sense.
“I realised I’d always been adapting my behaviour to fit in, masking my feelings and problems, without even knowing I was doing it.”
Guy entered employment again and discovered he excelled at roles which allowed him to work at his own pace and find his own solutions to problems, but he still felt awkward in some situations.
However, things changed when he joined the customer accounts department at Good Energy in 2020. He enjoyed the attention to detail, and felt more at ease due to an inclusive culture which celebrated people’s differences.
Guy was promoted in 2021 and now splits his time between working in the office and from his home in Wales.
He has also become the co-chair of the company’s Inclusion Champions group which promotes equality and fairness across the organisation.
Guy said: “I struggled in other jobs for a very long time, but at Good Energy they recognise the importance of a truly inclusive culture and attracting diverse talent.
“There’s much greater awareness of various conditions and there’s lots of training and support available too, which really helps people to settle in.
“Colleagues understand why I might ask them to explain things more clearly or give me a more precise goal, or why my questions might seem quite random.
“They know it’s because I’m interested in every detail, but they don’t see it as a problem, they see it as something which allows me to do my best work.
“Now I finally have the freedom to use my different perspective to find solutions to problems, and I never feel like I need to mask completely, which used to cause a great deal of stress and burnout.
“I’m much more comfortable and confident because I know it’s completely OK to just be myself.
“It’s absolutely awesome. It’s made me happier and more fulfilled – I look forward to coming to work!”
Good Energy was founded in 1999 and boasts a 100% renewable energy mix, consisting of wind, biogeneration, solar and hydroelectricity projects from around 1,700 independent generators across the UK.
It is the second-biggest solar power payment company in the UK through the Feed-in Tariff, with more than 180,000 customers, and now provides heat pumps and solar installations too.
To learn more about the roles available at Good Energy, visit www.goodenergy.co.uk/about-us/careers