Those with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) will know just how much ‘fun’ and frustration ADHD can cause within the workplace. Many adults with ADHD can have highly successful careers. Others may experience a range of difficulties, such as poor communication abilities, distractibility, procrastination, and trouble managing challenging projects. Each person with ADHD faces their own set of difficulties. Hence, it’s crucial to keep your employee’s individual challenges in mind as you establish workplace solutions, adjustments, and modifications if you are trying to learn how to support employees with ADHD.
How ADHD affects people
My name is Kieren, I was diagnosed with ADHD just under 2 years ago so I was pretty late to the ‘party’. Since then I have finally understood why I’ve had a hard time completing projects, forgot things frequently, and got distracted so easily. My diagnosis helped answer a lot of questions I had about myself but was also such a relief. Basically when I was younger in school I would struggle to do my work or listen to my teachers so therefore I was questioning my ability and began to think I was just ‘dumb’. Thankfully that was not the case, and my ADHD diagnosis provided that explanation as to why I would struggle back in school.
Fast forward to my working life, although I’ve learned to live with and manage my challenges, ADHD unfortunately does not like things to be smooth sailing all the time 😅. From time to time I find myself struggling to focus at work and getting easily distracted by the office floor if it’s loud and a lot of people are around. Even writing this blog post is going to take me twice as long as it should do…..
Sitting still is something I’m not the best at either, I always need to be doing something whether that is fidgeting, tapping my pen or rocking in my chair. In meetings, staying engaged is impossible as I’ll almost certainly get distracted by things going on outside the window or just by my own thoughts. I’ll then realise I’ve zoned out and get stressed because I’ve lost track of the group’s conversation 😂.
This is just my story however, there are so many more who share these challenges and the prevalence of adult ADHD is estimated to be at 2.58% (yet many still remain undiagnosed). Nobody with ADHD is the same however, we all face different challenges or deal with some aspects better than others. Hear from my colleague, Rorie about his experience with ADHD at work:
Rorie Hannigan- Head of Systems Business Analysis at Virgin Experience Days
“Working life with ADHD has been an interesting journey. I only discovered ADHD was part of who I am a couple of years ago, since finding this out, it has really changed the way in which I go about managing my time in the workplace. Flexible working practices at Virgin Experience Days enable me to leverage periods of focus and energy, for me starting earlier works best, and being able to get started at 7.30 really helps get the most from my day.
I think the key thing to remember with ADHD is that there are times when it can be a little frustrating – getting easily distracted by other stimuli, such as Slack messages and other tasks.
However, it also comes with its upsides. Some of these benefits include; intense periods of ‘hyperfocus’. ADHD tends to result in having lots of energy for life, and by channelling this correctly, I believe it helps you to become resilient in different situations. Helping you accept tough situations and continue to move forward in a positive manner.
If you have ADHD, from my experience some brilliant ways of helping with focus and managing your day to day wellbeing include; breath work, meditation & cold showers, give it a go!”
What can your business do to help?
It is your responsibility as a manager to keep your company moving forward by ensuring that every employee is engaged and able to do their jobs. The same strategy you use with some employees might not work for your employees who have ADHD when you’re hoping to motivate and keep the momentum going. If you are hoping to learn how to support your employees with ADHD, it might be necessary to change some of your management strategies.
Flexibility- Roles that have a strict routine or a fixed schedule such as a 9-5 job can be particularly difficult for someone to stay focused the entire time. Job flexibility can help with this, for example allowing employees to choose their start and finish time and when they have their break. Being able to delegate admin heavy tasks to others can also be really helpful as these are the easiest tasks to lose concentration on.
Manage Distractibility- One of the biggest problems for those with ADHD can be issues with both internal and external distractibility (daydreaming and noise/movement in the environment). Allowing your employees to use headphones to block out the office noise will really help or even providing ‘quiet rooms’ should they need to get away to be able to concentrate. Other great ideas can be meeting recordings in case your employee zoned out during the meeting or send a follow-up email to summarise the key points of the meeting.
Asking questions- Every person with ADHD is different, just like every one of your employees is an individual who could respond better to one management style than another. Talking to them is among the best things you can do. They are the best at understanding themselves, so they are quite helpful in figuring out what management styles would be most beneficial and answering questions about how they can be supported.
Access to coaching- Not everybody with ADHD will need or want coaching but it can be really beneficial to those who really struggle. Regular sessions with a work coach who can assist them with improving their organisation and time management skills/ tactics may be helpful for those with ADHD.
Write it down- This one works particularly well for me! If an employee with ADHD appears to overlook details while completing their work, you might find it frustrating. Yet writing everything down might be a quick and easy way to help people recall even the smallest details whether this is written in a notebook or on an email. It can be useful to have something to refer back to, even for your team members who do not struggle with ADHD, to ensure that nothing is missed.
I hope this article has helped you learn how to support employees with ADHD. It is important to support and recognise employees of all backgrounds, find out how we can help with your employee engagement programs below.