There can be a lot of negative perceptions about ADHD. The letters stand for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder which means even the name seems to focus on the negative.
Focusing on just the challenges of the condition would mean ignoring all the positive characteristics. These include creativity, quick thinking, incredible problem-solving capabilities and ability to see patterns and make connections that a linear brain cannot notice.
ADHDers are enthusiastic, resilient, hard-working and have a healthy sense of humour that helps navigate some of the difficulties living with ADHD can present.
An ADHD-friendly workplace is an environment that supports employees living with ADHD so they can perform their best. Even a few reasonable and informal workplace accommodations can make a huge difference to productivity, quality of work, and general well-being of an ADHD employee.
Here are 8 ways to make the workplace an ADHD-friendly place.
Sharing that you have ADHD with your boss or supervisor is a big deal. Many ADHDers have sleepless nights and spend hours debating in their mind the pros and cons of revealing this information.
On one hand, they are concerned about your reaction and fearful that this piece of information will sabotage their career as there is still a lot of prejudice about ADHD. On the other hand, they know they will be better at their job if they can request a few accommodations.
ADHD employees don’t want to use the condition as an excuse. They just need some practical tweaks to their environment in order to perform at their best. Having a receptive and supportive boss makes a huge difference, even if you don’t know much about ADHD at the moment.
When a person with ADHD’s style of work is being closely watched and criticised, the person feels stressed. That, in turn, means the ADHD symptoms get worse.
Give your ADHD employees some space to reach the end goal in their own way. How they get there will almost certainly be different from your way, yet the final results will be at the same high standard. Plus, their creative ADHD brain might have fresh insights that a linear brain wouldn’t have discovered.
Open plan offices can make it hard for a person with ADHD to focus on important tasks.
Here are some examples of helpful workarounds.
The option to use headphones.
Working in an unused meeting room for a few hours.
Relocating to a cubicle in the quietest part of the office.
Permission to work in uninterrupted chunks of time, without needing to check emails or answer phone calls.
Freedom to move
Sitting at a desk for extended periods of time feels like agony for a person with hyperactivity. The person might find legitimate ‘excuses’ to get up and walk, such as refilling a water bottle, going to the photocopier, etc.
This isn’t because they don’t want to work, it is because it’s hard to concentrate unless they can burn off some energy. If your ADHD employees know it is okay to move around, that will relieve the guilt they have about this need. A short walk around the office or a run-up and down the stairwell relieves their restlessness and they can return to their desk with a fresh mind.
Depending on the type of office environment, a standing desk or treadmill desk would be amazing.
Some tasks take ADHDers longer than other people. Things like writing reports and presentations, organising and planning, multi-step tasks or boring attention-to- detail tasks are a few examples. Often ADHD employees will be embarrassed they can’t work as fast as their peers and will stay late to catch up when the office is quiet.
If some tasks take your ADHD employees longer, it’s not a reflection of their intelligence or capabilities. It is just that ADHD makes these tasks more of a challenge.
Perception of time is different for people with ADHD compared to their non-ADHDco-workers. This difference in time perception is one of the reasons it is easier to work on projects with a short-term deadline compared to a deadline that is months away.
Big projects with long-range completion dates can get postponed until the deadline is very close, which can be stressful for everyone involved. If you have long-term projects, it is helpful to schedule regular check-ins or team meetings. These meetings provide additional shorter-term deadlines for your ADHD team member. This accountability helps with time management and also provides the opportunity for feedback.
It is easy for ADHD employees to over commit. They are enthusiastic and love to say yes to interesting projects and tasks. The impulsive nature of ADHD also makes it easy to say yes and only think about the practicalities later.
In addition, challenges with time perception means that ADHDers don’t always have a realistic understanding of how long a task will take, and how that will fit into their current workload.
This can lead to a perfect storm of overpromising and under delivering.
If you know your ADHD employee has this tendency, you can help. For example, if they say, ”I will have it to you in 48 hours” and you know that would be a stretch for most people, help them to set a more realistic delivery time.
At the end of a meeting or conversation, allow a few minutes for your ADHD employees to ask any clarification questions they might have. This helps them to understand exactly what is required and to organise the logistics in their minds.
Some workplaces don’t allow for this, perhaps saying they want employees to work independently. However, these extra few minutes of communication will save ADHD employees feeling confused and possibly spending hours trying to figure things out on their own or working in the wrong direction.
In conclusion, there are many benefits to having ADHD employees on your team, and these eight suggestions will help to maximise their strengths so you get the full benefit of their brilliance.