Supporting employees with ADHD in the workplace
What is ADHD?
It’s estimated that 5% of the global population has ADHD. This means that as employers, we should be creating inclusive workplaces for any ADHD employees we may have.
Before getting into what it’s like living and working with ADHD, let’s look at the definition of ADHD. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a behavioural condition. It's associated with challenges including: the ability to control attention, impulse and concentration. As well as strengths including: proactiveness, hyperfocus and resilience.
People with ADHD may experience hyperactivity and impulsiveness. They might become easily distracted and prone to being restless or fidgeting. And, they may find it difficult to maintain their focus.
People with ADHD may also be proactive and have the ability to work well under pressure. Other associated strengths include creativity, and the ability to think holistically. As well as resilience, which can often make them great leaders. Hyperfocus is also associated with ADHD. Individuals that experience hyperfocus are driven by their interests. They're able to focus with deep concentration and energetic drive.
What does it feel like having ADHD at work?
Having ADHD at work can present a number of challenges for individuals, particularly in a neurotypical environment that may not cater to a neurodiverse workforce. One common ADHD challenge for adults is difficulty with sustained focus and attention, which can make it hard to complete tasks. Employees with ADHD may also find difficulty with interpersonal interactions.
This can include talking excessively or struggling to read social cues. As a result, employees with ADHD may feel dissatisfied with their work, isolated and frustrated.
To help all employees reach their full potential, it’s our duty as employers to create an inclusive workplace. By creating an open, inclusive culture of belonging and offering the right accommodations, not only can employees with ADHD thrive, but the business as a whole can benefit from the unique advantages these employees provide.
Learn more about how to create an inclusive recruiting and onboarding experience.
As an employer, being inclusive is vital for every stage of an employee’s journey. Inclusive recruitment is a key aspect of this, as it helps attract neurodivergent talent who can bring unique skills and perspectives to your business.
In this series, we explore how to create a recruiting and onboarding process that’s accessible and inclusive to all.
- Ability to hyperfocus
- Performing under pressure
Individuals with ADHD can prove themselves to be some of the most creative thinkers on a team. Their natural ability to think in a non-linear way means that they can come up with original and innovative ideas that may not have been considered by their neurotypical colleagues.
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What reasonable adjustments can we make for employees with ADHD?
Supporting employees with ADHD to achieve their best means helping them overcome any challenges.
Start by asking the employee if they need any extra support. Then discuss what adjustments would benefit them. We’ve provided some examples of simple adjustments below. It might help you to kick start the conversation:
Offer the opportunity for regular one-to-one conversations. This can be with a line manager or neurodiversity champion. The goal is to ensure support as often as required.
Try providing goals with short timelines, or break down a large project into smaller weekly tasks. When deadlines are far into the future, employees with ADHD may be more prone to forgetting them.
One of the most powerful ways of supporting a colleague or employee with ADHD is simply by getting to know them as a person. Together, you can focus on doing what you can to learn, understand and acknowledge their ADHD traits. Through this, you can explore what works and what doesn’t.
Getting started with tasks is often the most difficult phase for adults with ADHD. They may become overwhelmed or focus too much on planning the task. Pairing them with an accountability partner or buddy can be extremely helpful to motivate and stay on track.
ADHD adults often feel defeated when they make mistakes. If the mistake is made regularly, it may be worth discussing different responsibilities that better align with their strengths. This can help prevent the negative impact that repeated mistakes can have on their confidence and overall job performance.
Adjust tasks to those which suit the individual. For example, those that provide structure and stimulate the mind. You may also give flexibility on how the task is completed. This freedom involves people with ADHD in the process and allows them to use strategies that may be unconventional, but play to their strengths. Supporting them to share those ideas leads to greater confidence and success.
There are several additions you can make to an employee with ADHD’s work life to make things more manageable. Discuss what visual prompts would help aid attentiveness. For example a wall chart, checklist, clock or timer. You may also want to allow the use of noise-cancelling headphones to help block out distractions. It’s also important to allow for regular breaks and the opportunity for movement throughout the day.
Although working from home has become the norm, neurodivergent employees may struggle with working outside the office. Try to be open to preferred methods of communication, whether it’s regular calls or mainly written communication. It also may be important to maintain structure with consistent routines, make time for emotional check-ins, and be direct in our online messaging.
Without disclosure, how can we support employees with ADHD?
Although some employees may feel comfortable disclosing their ADHD, this is not the case for everyone. Employees are fully within their rights to keep their ADHD diagnosis private. So how do we help support these employees? Luckily, there are multiple ways to ensure all employees are supported, whether they disclose that they’re neurodiverse or not:
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Assistive technology for employees with ADHD
There are a range of reasonable accommodations that we as employers can make to support our employees with ADHD. As powerful as these inclusion practices may be, assistive technology can have some of the most transformative results.
ADHD productivity tools and assistive technology works alongside employees, allowing them to build on their own natural strengths. It’s best to choose a support tool with a range of features so that employees can work in a way that suits their unique needs.
Using assistive technology doesn’t have to be limited to neurodiverse staff, as it can bring benefits to the entire company. It can be extremely beneficial for other types of thinkers too, like those with low literacy or those with English as a second language.
Supports people who think, learn and work differently. Helps neurodiverse workforces to thrive.
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