Adults with ADHD report significant difficulties at work. The research tells us that they often change jobs. Sometimes this is because they are fired. However, they also tend to resign frequently, either because they are bored, or they feel that their work is not up to standard, and they will be “found out” At times, they struggle socially, finding it difficult to make sense of office politics. Occupational health and safety records also show that people with ADHD tend to have workplace accidents more frequently than their peers. While the research highlights the difficulties experienced in the workplace for people with ADHD, there is little or no research into what might help make the workplace more ADHD-friendly.
Russell Barkley recently published an article in the ADHD Report which provides advice for employers wanting to support their staff with ADHD. Here is a summary of his information:
1. Employers need to educate themselves about the nature and causes of ADHD. Once they understand that it is a neurobiological disorder and not a lifestyle choice, they will be more inclined to support workers who are experiencing difficulties.
2. People with ADHD have Executive Function (EF) impairments. The Executive Functions include planning, self-motivation, self-awareness, self-restraint, emotional self-control and working memory (holding goals in mind, and the methods to achieve them). These impairments will obviously cause them difficulties at work.
3. Instructions should be clear, and given in written form. Help employees to develop a daily, weekly, monthly to-do list that makes sense to them, and ensure that tasks are carried out.
4. ADHD is the ultimate time management disorder. People with ADHD underestimate how long tasks will take, and they also overestimate how long they have to complete tasks. This results in a mad rush as the deadline approaches. Employers could help by showing the passage of time as the project proceeds – a whiteboard would be good for this.
5. Long-term projects need to be broken down into much smaller steps.
6. Build in accountability for people with ADHD – (and do it with sensitivity).
7. Sometimes working in teams is very useful for people with ADHD, as they provide an accountability-partner. They also allow individuals to use their strengths, and leave their partner to use theirs.
8. Build in frequent rewards. Productivity-related goals could be motivating.
9. There is some evidence to show that people with ADHD drift towards self-employment. If that is the case, they need to ensure that they have accountability in place for “unappealing” tasks (such as BAS statements and paperwork in general).
10. Some people with ADHD are happier in jobs that are more physical, manual or social. Also, some people need their work to have variety or high stimulus,(such as hospital emergency departments) in order to prevent boredom. Be aware if that is the case.
11. People with ADHD are generally not good at paperwork, especially if it is repetitive, tedious or boring. Provide support in the form of an admin assistant or a form of accountability.
12. Do your best to match your employees job to his interests, in order to get the best results.
13. Encourage your employee to have CBT or coaching to build their life skills.
14. People with ADHD may experience peak levels of alertness later than fellow workers. For this reason, they may at their most productive in the early afternoon.
15. Try to limit distractions – an open plan office might not be the best option for someone with ADHD. Allow workers to limit mental distractions by listening to music or white noise on earphones
16. Consider your method of delivery when training employees with ADHD. Take time to find out how they learn best, and train them accordingly