This post is part of Project: Inception, written ~8 years ago. It has been untouched from its original, pseudonymous, form. It is also part of the larger “farewell” tour and countdown as I turn-off this blog and head to the metaverse where I will live out the rest of my wonderful days. I hope to see you there!
We’re Not Workaholics
Aspie creatives are built differently when it comes to work. We have a number of social challenges that can definitely contribute to a ”different” work environment, but everyone has social quirks so I try not to spend too much time analyzing that side of things.
What I want to briefly chat about are two sad misconceptions when it comes to those that have Asperger Syndrome and how we do our work. You see, there are two camps that exist, the first camp firmly sitting around the campfire of workaholism and the other camp that is firmly rooted in a philosophy of “work-life balance.”
I’ve been challenged to conform to both camps at different points in my life and I have come to realize that both sides are grossly misinformed about what it means to be an aspie creative and have taken little time to understand us, our strategies for accomplishing work and methods by which we get those things done. I shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’ve failed miserably in every attempt to conform and what baffles many employers is the fact that we can be (and are) exceptionally productive and valuable members of the staff and workforce, despite our “challenges” with conforming to one of the camps.
You see, in many ways I have always seen it as a both/and scenario rather than an either/or; in other words, I am both wildly a workaholic and at the same time very much a part of the working class that has found equilibrium and balance.
Much of of the so-called workaholism comes from our intense obsessions and compulsions that may have us work non-stop for an irregular stretch of hours at a time. While most of my colleagues have slunk home to channel surf the latest reality tv show options I find myself still at work, grinding hard on an engineering problem with just as much vigor and passion as I did when I first arrived that same morning at 4:00am.
I’ve been told to stop, take a break, go home and do something else when I’m actually quite capable of stopping, taking a break, and going home when I need to – and when I do I may end up crashing and not showing up for work the next day, which of course, is where I get in trouble because the most effective and productive employee must work at least 8 hours a day for 5 straight business days, right?
I am not a workaholic – I work and am passionately involved in it. It’s just not cleanly put in a box and modeled well as per an organization’s expectations or society’s interpretation of corporate work. That’s what makes me creative, that’s what makes me an aspie.
Employers and businesses would do well to provide not just leniency but rather freedom for not just an asperger’s employee but for all employees to work as they best see it. They should make available work-from-home programs, open-ended work hours, and “unlimited” holidays and vacation days. The recipe for great work and a great work environment is a combination of trust, autonomy, and readily available resources, both tools and technology but also human resources.
You don’t have to be a genius (or an aspie) to figure that out. Allow all employees to do their best work with the methods that make the most sense to them and you shall have a thriving and successful business and also be remembered as an incredible manager and leader.
And when we rest, we really do rest. Just like our patterns of behavior when it comes to work our “rest” may not look like yours or most of the people within the organization. In fact, our restmay actually be the same thing as our obsession, it’s just that we’re doing it for ourselves instead of explicitly for you. We’re building our own pieces of software at home so that will enable us to turn on and off the lights in the house with just a mouse-click. Sorry, we didn’t build it for you, we built it for ourselves and it was really, really relaxing.
An aspie creative can have “work-life balance” – it just doesn’t look like yours. We’re not workaholics, we just work differently than neurotypicals, although I bet we could teach those NTs a few things about productivity.