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 behavioral 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. 

What are the benefits of hiring employees with ADHD?

Neurodiverse individuals, including those with ADHD, represent a vast and often untapped talent pool in a neurotypical world. These individuals are wired to provide valuable outside-the-box thinking. By embracing neurodiversity and building a workforce that includes individuals who think and understand differently, employers can gain a competitive advantage and contribute to the success of their business.

Here are some of the benefits of hiring employees with ADHD:

  • Creativity
  • Ability to hyperfocus
  • Curiosity
  • Performing under pressure
  • Multitasking

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.

Get our guide to unlocking neurodiversity in the workplace

This free guide is designed for HR Professionals, DE&I Specialists, Engagement Managers, CEOs and Disability Champions. 

Discover how to tap into the competitive advantages that neurodiverse thinkers can provide by creating a culture that welcomes neurodiverse teams.

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-canceling 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. 

If you want more tips on driving employee engagement and supporting employees with ADHD, check out our blog.

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 from their employers and colleagues. 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:

  • Hold neurodiversity awareness training for all employees to educate them about neurodiverse issues, including ADHD, its characteristics, and common challenges faced by individuals with ADHD. This creates an environment where employees feel more comfortable seeking support without disclosing their diagnosis.
  • Offer flexible work arrangements, such as flexible schedules or remote work options, that accommodate the unique needs of employees with ADHD. Flexibility allows employees to adjust how they work to their own needs, rather than needing to ask for adjustments themselves.
  • Provide time management training, such as techniques for prioritizing tasks, managing deadlines and staying organized. Making these resources available can help employees with ADHD, without needing to single them out. 
  • Create a workspace that minimizes distractions and excessive sensory stimuli, such as a lot of noise or bright lights. 
  • Encourage employees to create Employee Resource Groups focused on neurodiversity. These networks can provide valuable resources and guidance without requiring disclosure.
  • Provide tools that promote different ways of thinking, communicating and working to all employees, without the need for disclosure. For example, Read&Write for Work.

Learn how to tap into the incredible potential of neurodivergent talent

Do you need some help in creating an environment that not only welcomes but embraces neurodiverse talent? In a series of 2 on-demand sessions and a downloadable guide, we share tips and strategies to do exactly this. Gain access to exclusive tips and strategies for supporting neurodivergent talent, with real-life stories from neurodivergent employees and insights from leading brands. You’ll also get a bonus special where TV presenter Jay Blades MBE shares his experience with dyslexia.

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. It also means that employees can use this technology, without having to disclose that they’re neurodiverse.

Explore Texthelp's assistive technology

Read&Write for Work helps companies unlock the potential of your people and your business. Its reading and writing tools empower all employees to think, learn and work to their full potential. Creating an inclusive workplace with Read&Work also helps to empower your DEI program, making it easier to attract from a wider talent pool and retain diverse talent.

For employees with ADHD, Read&Write can help with time management, organization and staying focused.

Supports people who think, learn and work differently. Helps neurodiverse workforces to thrive.

Further reading

If you want to learn more about how to support neurodiverse thinkers in the workplace, we want to help you in your journey of becoming a more inclusive workplace.

Neurodiversity in the workplace

Neurodiversity is one form of diversity in the workplace. Discover what employers can do to support employees with neurodiverse conditions.

Supporting employees with autism

Employees with autism can face certain challenges at work, but with the right accommodations in place, they can thrive and bring unique benefits to a business. Discover how.

Supporting dyslexic employees

Learn how to support dyslexic employees and bring significant competitive advantages to your business. 

Supporting employees with dyspraxia

Learn how to support employees with dyspraxia in the workplace and discover what competitive advantages they can bring to a business.

Supporting employees with executive functioning challenges

Learn about the effects of struggling with executive function at work, and discover how we can support employees through these difficulties so they can bring their full selves to work.