ADHD at Work
From our October Newsletter
By Stephanie Scherle
This month is ADHD Awareness Month. In the UK, the incidence rate for ADHD is 5% for children and 2-3% for adults. This means that around 2.6 million people in the UK have ADHD. While conversations about ADHD have increased in the last few years, with popular social media platforms like TikTok being flooded with information about the topic, it is important to highlight how ADHD can impact employees' work and what employers can do to bring out the best in their ADHD employees.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition affecting brain structure and neurotransmission. ADHD is thought to be caused by a complex mix of environmental and genetic factors, but is a strongly hereditary condition. ADHD is present from childhood, but an increasing number of adults are now being diagnosed with ADHD for the first time, having been ‘missed’ when they were younger and the condition was not as well understood as it is now.
ADHD has three core symptoms, which affect each individual with ADHD to different degrees:
Getting easily distracted
- Concentration, short-term and working memory
- Planning and getting started (activation)
- Organisation and losing things
Acting/speaking in the spur of the moment without considering possible consequences
Difficulty controlling emotions
Restlessness, need to tap or fidget
This is less pronounced in adults than in children
Strengths of Individuals with ADHD
Ability to hyperfocus on things they are interested in
Willingness to take risks
Spontaneous and flexible
Good in crisis
Creative ideas - they think outside the box
Motivated by short-term deadlines - working in sprints rather than marathons
An eye for detail
How Can Organisations Support Employees with ADHD?
ADHD, if its impact on the individual is significant, can be seen as a disability under the 2010 Equality Act – and therefore employers have a responsibility to protect (potential) employees from discrimination and harassment, and to make reasonable adjustments. But beyond the legal obligation to offer support, doing this will increase employees' job satisfaction and performance.
Ask Employees What They Need
Before diving into plans on what you could do to support your employees with ADHD, ask them what they actually need. Because each person is unique in how they are affected by ADHD, listen to their point of view.
Modify Your Work Environment
Provide opportunities for visual prompts: install wall charts and clocks, create checklists for tasks and provide post-it notes.
Encourage the use of alarms and timers
Allow headphones and earplugs
Give employees their own space or opportunities to withdraw to minimize distractions
Modify Working and Management Practices
Offer increased supervision, regular check-ins and feedback
Break down tasks into clear steps
Give instructions in writing rather than verbally
Allow for regular (stretching) breaks - also during long meetings
Consider flexible scheduling: many with ADHD struggle with concentration in the morning and adjusted working hours could help them reach their highest potential
Consider flexible deadlines where possible
Allow Useful Technology (examples linked below)
To-do list reminders, scheduling apps (e.g. Todoist)
Text-to-speech and speech-to-text software (e.g. Captivoice, Google Docs Voice Typing)
Blockers to minimize social media distraction (e.g. Cold Turkey)
White noise or ambient noise apps (e.g. Coffivity)
Note-taking apps (usually pre-installed on phones)
Give Employees Access to Coaching
Regular coaching can help employees develop and improve organisation and time management skills
Find Out Employee Strengths and Let Them Work on Projects That Fit Their Strength Profile
This suggestion is not only relevant for those with ADHD, but for all employees: assigning them tasks that fit their individual strengths can increase employee satisfaction and performance.
Examples of useful technology:
We can help you help your employees with ADHD, especially when it comes to coaching and assessing their strengths. To learn more, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Helping Employees With ADHD Succeed (n.d.). ADDA. https://adhdatwork.add.org/help-adhd-employees-succeed/.
Lipman, V. (2012, October 2). How To Manage Employees With ADD/ADHD. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2012/10/02/how-to-manage-employees-with-addadhd/?sh=5c63d8578c9b.
Scottish ADHD Coalition (2018). An Employer’s Guide to ADHD in the Workplace. https://www.scottishadhdcoalition.org/adhd-and-employment/.