AIBU future work accommodations

So this is not a current situation. I’m working from home for this job but I’m thinking ahead until I’m in the office.

Some background: I am a computer programming in a financial institution. I was hired into my current role through a neurodiversity hiring event - my direct manager is aware that I identify as neurodivergent, though my teammates are not. Currently, I am working from home due to covid but I will be moving into the office early next year.
I got involved with the org running the hiring event very early in my ND journey - I’m still coming to terms with what this means for my career etc.
I’m also trans male if that ends up being relevant.

I know from personal experience that I’m going to hate overhead fluorescent lighting and cubicles. I also know that my brain sees a cubicle desk and wants to make a fort. Would it be unreasonably weird for me to take my breaks under my desk behind a sheet? Or maybe even retreat there with my laptop during working hours? The idea of a little private space under the desk on the floor is so comforting, but I don’t want to get in trouble for “hiding” either.

Similarly, are my coworkers likely to think I’m antisocial if I don’t want to spend my breaks with my team? I get along well with people in general if I try, but it requires effort. If I’m supposed to be relaxing, I don’t want people around. I’ve had other jobs but I’ve never worked in an office setting before. We all had different break times. I literally took up smoking at one job so I’d have an excuse to take my breaks outdoors away from everyone (I’ve since quit, no worries). When I’m not getting paid and I don’t genuinely like someone, I’m not interested in playing nice. Is that going to be a problem? I don’t mean I’d be rude, I just mean I’d rather go off and read a book than talk to people. Do I just need to keep my “on the clock” persona all the time? Am I being unreasonable if I just go off on my own during breaks even if I’m friendly otherwise?

2 Likes

Can I just say that the idea of having a cubicle fort is one of the coolest ideas I have ever heard?

Firstly, I would try not to worry about appearing anti-social with others at break-times if you would rather be alone. Everywhere I’ve worked has had people sitting quietly on their own, either at their desk, break-rooms or works cafes. Something you might also wish to consider is checking out the local area close to your work. If there is somewhere nice, and if it is feasible to get there during your break time, you could always eat your lunch there.

As far as the fort goes though, that is something that you would need to talk to your work about. I wouldn’t know how to go about asking for that, but maybe someone else here might…?

In any case, I hope all goes well with your return to the work place!

3 Likes

Something people need to realise is that you owe no one your time. When you are off the clock, it is your right to decide how you want to spend your time. There is nothing wrong with being anti-social.

(FTR, I’d probably do the same… I’d rather spend my breaks on a Nintendo Switch - or soon, the steam deck - than converse with people)

4 Likes

I think the issues you describe will make you stand out as “weird” although amongst computer programmers, less so. I advise that you take the route of claiming accommodation for disability with a neurodivergent diagnosis, if you have one, and if your government and your employer honour that.

Perhaps something other than a standard desk and cubicle would suit you, and the lighting may be LED nowadays. Putting a roof over a cubicle or a desk is very eccentric, and there is fire hazard to consider, but to see another option, look up (office privacy pod). Up to you whether to leave the pod door open or closed. Or simply - you get your own office. (Or grab an old confession booth from a Catholic church.) Or put a hutch over your computer, or a deep shelf, that you can lean into.

I have some issues similar to yours; what interferes with my concentration is talk nearby, or daylight where the window blinds are open or moving. I find that music on earphones and a golf visor are helpful for these respective problems. I think my visor is from the women’s side of the store as men don’t wear them so much, but it isn’t pink or anything. You could wear a baseball cap, but golf is classier (and I got hot).

Your work may include co-working with colleagues, so you may need to put in the effort there, and if you don’t want to be sociable then that will show, but colleagues also have a duty to respect your difference. One way perhaps to shut down casual talk when you’re not working, without being rude, is to talk about the work. People will be happy to say, “No, let’s talk about it later”… unless they do it back to you, so now you are both working, thinking and talking about work, when you should be on a break.

3 Likes

In computer programming, a lot of things that would be seen weird elsewhere are often less weird or even normal amongst programmers. However, even amongst programmers, hiding behind a sheet at your cubicle would be very weird, and might even be considered a fire hazard, so I would let that idea go. However, are there any other ways that you could maybe close off your cubicle a little more that are less weird and would still make you feel better? Like maybe you could move things around and position them in a way so that less people could look in? I had a coworker once that got a few plants and placed them around his cubicle so that it was a little less visible. Maybe a similar solution would help you? Like not necessarily with plants but maybe you can rearrange things in your cube to make it more comfortable for you and a little less open.

As for socializing on breaks, I think you’re fine to spend your breaks on your own. Your breaks should be your own time to relax and reenergize. However, I’d also say to try to pay attention to team dynamics a bit here, because if the whole team spends a lot of time together during their breaks, and you never join them, they will notice. This doesn’t mean that you would need to join them all the time, but joining them every once in a while would probably be good.

1 Like