ADHD in the Workplace... How can you support employees with ADHD?
With a reported 3.5% of the UK population having (diagnosed) ADHD and a further group of adults who are yet to be diagnosed, you're bound to be working with at least one person or know of somebody with the disorder.
This is why it is super important, to know how to support those with ADHD in the workplace.
People with ADHD have a myriad of positive attributes that contribute to their work such as creative thinking, entrepreneurial skills, the ability to hyperfocus, empathy for others, attention to detail and many others.
So, how can you best support your ADHD employee?
1. Ask them what they need.
Simple? You'd be surprised at how many employers forget the most basic act of asking their ADHD employees what they need, and how they can be supported to perform their best.
2. Offer a different environment (if that's what they need).
Having ADHD can make it difficult to focus on tasks when there is outside noise/stimuli to distract you. Having a singular desk away from the 'hustle and bustle' MAY help with focus, although some people with ADHD prefer to be around people for accountability and body doubling (more about this further down).
3. Allow remote working.
People with ADHD can struggle with emotional dysregulation, which can cause them to find it tricky to perform everyday tasks, such as socialising with others in the office or hour-long face-to-face meetings. Allowing your employees to work remotely if they need to focus away from others is a way around this.
4. Set clear deadlines.
Time blindness is real. Provide all the information clearly to them in writing (or get them to write it down), in advance and check in along the way to ensure your task has been started. People with ADHD are known for leaving things to the last minute to use the pressure of a deadline to get the job done.
TOP TIP: Set fake deadlines if you need to check something before it gets sent :)
5. Provide instructions in writing.
Even after asking them in person, email them clear instructions with the deadline attached (and maybe CC their mentor/manager for some accountability). This will help to ensure you cover all bases.
6. Break down tasks into chunks.
If you are giving someone with ADHD a mountainous task, don't be surprised if they get overwhelmed at the thought of it. Break it down into smaller, achievable tasks, that they are able to complete.
7. Visual prompts.
It's easy to forget what task you are doing if somebody pulls your attention away. Remind them to use Post-it notes for reminders of tasks and keep things visible on their desk. "Out of sight, out of mind" was invented by someone with ADHD we're sure of it!
8. Allow headphones/earplugs.
People with ADHD can focus better when listening to ambient sounds or music (which means they won't be able to talk to you during this time.) Don't be offended if they aren't talking to you, they are most likely in hyperfocus mode and cannot be distracted.
Allow them to focus, get to know their focus mode and what that looks like for them and DO NOT disturb them.
Encourage the use of timers to ensure the best use of their time. (Pomodoro timers work wonders - 25 minutes focus, 5-minute break, etc.)
Allow regular brain breaks, with the use of timers. Schedule breaks or switch locations during longer meetings, they can lose focus easily in longer meetings having to sit down for long periods of time.
10. Set agendas for meetings.
'Quick chat' is NOT a meeting title. Adding a simple 'about ......' is easy and saves a lot of stress (and questions for you to answer!). Within the meeting notes, add a note about what they might need to prepare before the meeting, bring to the meeting or even a short description of what is going to be discussed is useful. Don't spring meetings on them suddenly, this can cause panic.
*Remember everyone with ADHD is different.*
What works for one person may not work for another, so keep the communication open and honest. This will ensure you don't assume any needs or speak for them in any way (they know themselves better than you do, no matter how many books you've read on ADHD symptoms...)