7 Effective-Proven Strategies for Managing ADHD in the Workplace

strategies to manage adhd at work
How to Manage ADHD in the Workplace

The word "Neurodiversity" refers to the natural diversity of all people. Still, the term is commonly associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and other neurological or developmental disorders like ADHD or learning disability. Despite not being widely discussed, approximately 15-20% of the population are neurodiverse. 

Neurodiversity can impact people’s lives differently, especially in the workplace. Although all employees experience workload issues, neurodivergent employees with ADHD in the workplace can have trouble with tasks, time management and conflict resolution, and can struggle with work performance or motivation as a result. 

However, neurodiversity is an inherent part of human diversity, and having employees with ADHD in the workplace can actually be a good thing in the workplace! Let’s have a look at these seven strategies for managing ADHD in the workplace and how you can make the most out of it!

What Is ADHD in the Workplace?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is characterized by a pattern of inattentiveness or impulsivity/hyperactivity that interferes with functioning or development. Having ADHD in the workplace is different to have someone who is easily distracted, bored or uninterested, like many neurotypical people can feel. 

Adults with ADHD in the workplace are often misunderstood, and many employers are not aware of how to make workplace accommodations for ADHD. Having ADHD in the workplace can come with extra challenges, such as: 

  • A short attention span which can result in having poor focus during meetings, presentations or when working on tasks;
  • Distractibility, which can lead to not staying on-task;
  • Hyper-focusing, where intense focus can lead to productivity, but sometimes this happens for unnecessary, unimportant or non-urgent tasks;
  • Hyperactivity which can occur at inconvenient times or is not conducive to the office environment;
  • Memory problems that can impact task prioritization, retaining information or submitting tasks on time;
  • Time management issues, either with lateness or can interfere with deadlines or launch dates;
  • Over-commitment or procrastination for both urgent and non-urgent tasks, interrupting team workflow.

Although these issues might make ADHD at work seem like a burden, many adults with ADHD in the workplace have learnt how to take it in their stride and use it to their advantage. Having ADHD at work has many upsides, such as curiosity, creativity, being innovative and finding time-saving ways to do common tasks that neurotypical employees might not have thought of. With small adjustments to workflows or practices, an employee with ADHD can overcome the challenges of having the disorder, and provide value to your team. 

Strategies to Managing a Team Member with ADHD

Managing an adult with ADHD in the workplace does not require an overhaul of current workflows, schedules or practices. Accommodating an adult with ADHD in the workplace involves making flexible adjustments to work tasks, and having honest dialogue about expectations for both the employer and employee. You cannot change the fact that an employee has ADHD; therefore, you need to be working with ADHD, not against it.

Here are our tips for supervising an employee with ADHD: 

💡 Encourage transparency.

Having ADHD at work can impact the way tasks are completed, and an employee might feel like they aren't as productive as their co-workers. Managing ADHD in the workplace should start with transparent communication.

Encourage open dialogue when supervising an employee with ADHD, by asking what adjustments they would need to work productively. Asking directly will make sure that the workplace accommodations for ADHD you decide upon are useful to the employee. 

💡 Change your approach.

Although you might feel like current work practices are efficient, productive and make sense, they might be difficult for employees who are working with ADHD. The ideal tasks or jobs for people this condition might be different than neurotypical employees, so try to be flexible in the range or scope of tasks.

Have an open-minded perspective to adjusting approaches to tasks, meetings, training and protocols to make them more suitable to having ADHD in the workplace.

💡 Focus on their strengths.

As mentioned before, having ADHD in the workplace is not a bad thing; it comes with many positives. Every employee with ADHD at work will have different challenges, weakness and strengths; work together to see what their strengths are, and find ways to utilize them. 

Creativity and innovation are often found in people with ADHD in the workplace. Not to mention you can utilize their hyperfocus characteristic to work on urgent or important tasks (of course, they will need to accompany by other neurotypical employees). By focusing on their strengths, managing ADHD in the workplace can result in positive results and boosted productivity.

💡 Set boundaries.

Due to issues with impulsivity and self-regulation, having ADHD in the workplace can come with issues with setting boundaries. Although the main goal of supervising an employee with ADHD is to work together to create a suitable work environment, you have a responsibility as an employer to set boundaries. Having realistic boundaries about unchangeable company policies, such as being late, working from home or productivity goals can give structure that can make working with ADHD in employees easier. 

Likewise, rather than setting hard boundaries when supervising an employee with ADHD, consider maintaining open communication for both the manager and employee to understand expectations. 

💡 Get the teams support.

As your team will be working with a neurodivergent employee, they also should be educated on how to accommodate ADHD in the workplace.

You do not need to divulge the details of how ADHD impacts the employee personally; rather, you should let the team know about ADHD in the workplace and its strengths! This might be the first time your team experiencing ADHD in the workplace, so having their support can remove the stigma associated with ADHD.

Ultimately, with the right workplace accommodations for ADHD, all employees, with or without ADHD can bring benefits to the table

💡 Set soft deadlines.

Having an employee with ADHD in the workplace does not mean that you shouldn’t have deadlines, goals and time restraints; instead, set flexible or ‘soft’ deadlines and goals for tasks. For example, rather than having a non-negotiable date for project submission, consider a time frame instead.

Soft deadlines are less daunting than hard deadlines, and can help both employers and managers with managing ADHD in the workplace. Likewise, having soft deadlines can help the team better manage their time. 

💡 Provide reasonable accommodation.

Although our tips can help form strategies for ADHD in the workplace, all workplace accommodations for ADHD need to be reasonable for both the employer and employee. Accommodations which are too lax might have a negative effect on the employee with ADHD, and might interfere with management strategies for the rest of the team.

Additionally, there are occasionally deadlines, goals or meetings which cannot be adjusted adequately, and compromise from both parts is essential. Likewise, not every employee with ADHD at work has a long list of workplace adjustments, and might only need minor accommodations. Having reasonable ADHD workplace adjustments is essential to efficient management of a neurodiverse team. 

Laws about ADHD in the Workplace

ADHD and other neurodivergent diagnoses are protected classes under labor laws, and are also included as a part of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Therefore, employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of ADHD or neurodivergence.

Having ADHD at work means that reasonable accommodations are required by law. Laws and rights for neurodivergent employees might differ depending on your country, however, examples of laws protecting ADHD and employment include: 

The Americans with Disabilities Act 

This Law protects all Americans with disabilities from being discriminated against in any form, including employment. Therefore, there are legal rights which protect employees with ADHD in the workplace.

Under this act, employers must provide equal employment opportunity and equal treatment in the workplace. Workplace accommodations for ADHD are legally required according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 

This is a federal law from the US Department of Labor which prohibits employment discrimination based on disability. Neurodivergent employees are protected under this Act, and employers are legally required to provide “positive actions” to assist qualified employees with disabilities. Therefore, ADHD workplace accommodations are enforced by this act.

State and Local Laws

Every state has its own labor, discrimination and disability laws which would apply to ADHD in the workplace. Read up on your own state’s Labor Code, Discrimination Act or Human Rights Law to see what specific accommodations for ADHD in the workplace are covered.

Outside of the US

ADHD in the workplace and other neurodivergent diagnoses are protected by federal laws. Examples of workplace rights for ADHD include: 

Many UN or OECD member nations have their own workplace discrimination act as a part of UN and OECD goals for anti-discrimination. Neurodivergence, and therefore ADHD at work, is protected in many of these countries labor laws. 

Working with adults with ADHD in the workplace simply involves being flexible and adjusting to both workplace accommodations for ADHD and complying with labor laws.

ADHD in the workplace can bring innovation, creativity and new strategies for management which might not have been considered if you haven’t experienced ADHD in the workplace before. Involving your team, setting boundaries and having reasonable accommodations will help your team learn more about ADHD in the workplace and gain a new appreciation for neurodiversity. 

Want to recruit gems for your talent pool? Follow our blog to read more about hiring tips, resources, and tutorials, or simply use our Recruitment Service to acquire talents from all industries.

— Originally written by Bronte McNamara —

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