How to create a workplace that supports employees with ADHD

How to create a workplace that supports employees with ADHD

20 Oct 2023

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This informal CPD article, ‘How to create a workplace that supports employees with ADHD’, was provided by Champs Consulting, who support organisations globally, delivering mental health first aid training, stress-free living workshops and wellbeing consultancy solutions.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a form of neurodivergence that impacts attention and concentration. People with ADHD can experience impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness. While they may struggle focusing at times, people with ADHD can also hyperfocus1.

ADHD is nuanced. The way it displays can be different from person to person. As such, it is no surprise that an ADHD diagnosis can occur at any point in someone’s life. In recent years, we have seen a rise in ADHD diagnoses in adults2 with 3 to 4 percent of adults3 in the UK having an ADHD diagnosis. This increase in diagnoses may, in part, be due to ADHD being better recognised and diagnosed as stigma around neurodivergence and mental health decreases.  With that said, there are also many people living with ADHD who go undiagnosed.

The prevalence of ADHD raises the question of what can workplaces do to support employees with ADHD?

Understanding ADHD in the workplace

Before we can explore ways to support employees with ADHD, we first need to understand the prevalence of ADHD in the workplace. As we delve deeper into the realms of ADHD in the workplace, we will shine a light on the myths and misconceptions surrounding ADHD. We will also look at the unique challenges that people with ADHD may face at work along with how their ADHD could be a hidden superpower or strength.

ADHD myths and misconceptions

Sadly, ADHD is a neurodivergent condition shrouded in myths and misconceptions. So, let’s reveal the reality behind some common misbeliefs.

ADHD isn’t a real condition” – ADHD is classed as a mental health disability under the Mental Health Act (1990). Research has shown ADHD can be caused by numerous factors including genetics, brain anatomy and functioning, prenatal exposures, and environmental factors.

“People with ADHD can never focus” – People with ADHD can have difficulty concentrating and may be easily distracted. However, they also can hyperfocus on things they are really interested in. For people with ADHD, effectively managing what they focus on can be a challenging part of their neurodivergence.

“ADHD is just laziness” – While employees with ADHD may appear lazy, distracted, or disorganised, the truth is they are often working harder than their colleagues to keep pace. With the right adjustments and support, people with ADHD can thrive in the workplace.

“You grow out of ADHD as you get older” – While it may seem like some people outgrow ADHD, it is more likely they have developed coping mechanisms and strategies for managing their condition. ADHD is a “lifespan” condition - While it is typically first recognised in childhood, it can also be diagnosed later in life.

These are just a few of the misconceptions surrounding ADHD. While ADHD education and awareness are increasing, it is still a largely misunderstood neurodivergent condition.

ADHD is synonymous with divergent thinking

Challenges faced by employees with ADHD

People with ADHD can find ‘typical’ work routines, structures, and environments difficult to navigate. Every person’s individual experience with ADHD is also unique, meaning people with ADHD can also experience different workplace challenges.

The workplace challenges experienced by employees with ADHD can impact their performance, productivity, and wellbeing. Familiarising yourself with common challenges of ADHD can help you understand how to create a workplace culture that supports people with this condition.

Inattention: One of the most notable challenges of ADHD is inattention. Employees with ADHD may struggle to focus on tasks or during meetings. They may also find themselves being easily distracted. This inattention could lead to reduction in productivity and task completion.

Task prioritisation: Employees with ADHD may also struggle with task prioritisation, goal setting and breaking large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. They might also experience forgetfulness and find themselves missing meetings or overlooking details. These organisational and time management challenges can result in missed deadlines, feelings of overwhelm, and burnout.

Task switching:  Putting challenges with inattention and organisation together, employees with ADHD are prone to ‘task switching’ at work. They may hop from task to task leading to fragmented work and lower levels of efficiency.

Impulsivity and hyperactivity: ADHD factors such as impulsivity and hyperactivity can also impact employee’s decision-making and concentration. They may make hasty decisions without consideration of the implications, speak out of turn in meetings, or struggle staying still or working on menial tasks as they become restless. These symptoms of ADHD can also impact workplace relationships by causing misunderstandings and potential conflicts.

Stress and anxiety:  Meeting the demands of fast-paced work environments can cause employees with ADHD to experience stress and anxiety. Worries about missing deadlines, making errors, or not meeting career expectations can cause them to be in a constant state of stress. 

Understanding the potential challenges of ADHD is crucial for ensuring employees receive the support and accommodations they need to thrive in the workplace. Before we look at how you can support employees with ADHD, let’s first explore the hidden strengths and super powers of this neurodivergence condition.

Support neurodivergent coaching and consultancy

ADHD superpowers and strengths

While ADHD presents its share of workplace challenges, it also comes with a unique set of hidden strengths and superpowers. When harnessed effectively, these strengths can bring powerful benefits to both the individual with ADHD and their organisations.

As we have already mentioned, people with ADHD can experience bouts of hyperfocus. When a task or subject matter captivates their interest, people with ADHD can achieve unparalleled levels of productivity and creativity as they channel all their energy and concentration into the task at hand. This could allow them to produce exceptional work in a fraction of the time.

Divergent thinking: As a neurodivergent condition, ADHD is synonymous with divergent thinking, allowing people to approach problems and tasks from a different angle. This divergent thinking could also allow them to develop creative solutions and innovative ideas that benefit the whole team. 

Adaptability and flexibility: The dynamic nature of ADHD means employees with ADHD can be more open to change. As they thrive in environments that require flexibility, employees with ADHD can be valuable in fast-changing, innovative industries or during times of transition. This adaptability could also make it easier for employees to multitask, managing multiple responsibilities at once.

Energy: ADHD is associated with boundless energy. This increased energy and enthusiasm could be channelled into work projects. It could also boost team morale and productivity by motivating other employees to be more energetic and positive.

Resiliency: Navigating life with ADHD requires resiliency. As such, employees with ADHD may find themselves more equipped to overcome setbacks and adapt to new strategies at work. 

Risk-taking: The impulsive nature of ADHD may also lead to being more inclined to take risks at work. If approached appropriately, these calculated risks could allow individuals to unlock opportunities that others wouldn’t have pursued.

As you can see, there are many strengths to ADHD. Learning how to support ADHD in the workplace can allow you to help your employees tap into their strengths.

Building a supportive workplace culture for employees with ADHD

Creating a workplace that acknowledges and actively supports employees with ADHD fosters a positive culture of wellbeing that allows your team to reach their full potential. A truly inclusive workplace celebrates the unique strengths and perspectives that each individual employee can bring. Here’s how you can build a supportive workplace culture for employees with ADHD:

Promote diversity and neurodiversity

If you want to create an inclusive culture, diversity should be ingrained into your organisation. This can be done by creating diverse hiring processes that banish bias, actively engage diverse and neurodiverse candidates, use neutral language, and minimise the ‘nice to haves’ in job descriptions. Having a diverse hiring board and reviewing CVs anonymously can also make the hiring process fairer. Post-hiring, you can improve diversity at work by increasing representation at every level of seniority, providing resources and support regarding diversity and neurodiversity, and offering mentorship.

Build diversity into your workplace policies too. From flexible working hours to acceptable workplace language and internal resources, there are many ways you can ensure your company policies promote diversity and neurodiversity.

Build a supportive workplace culture

Raise awareness and reduce stigma

Make a conscious effort to increase awareness and understanding, whilst reducing stigma surrounding ADHD and neurodivergence. This can be done by investing in training and awareness programmes to educate employees about ADHD. You can also encourage leaders to actively engage in promoting a neurodiverse workplace, ensuring they drive change from the top-down.

Allow employees with ADHD to self-disclose if they feel comfortable doing so. This can help normalise conversations about ADHD and neurodiversity while also ensuring these employees get the support they need.

Make accommodations and adjustments

Workplace norms can be challenging for people with ADHD. Work with each individual employee to provide reasonable accommodations so that they can work effectively. While reasonable accommodations will differ from person to person, some things that may fall under this bracket include flexible work schedules, task management tools, accountability partners, and noise-cancelling headphones. ADHD really is a varied condition.

To truly help employees with ADHD thrive at work, work with them to develop an individual support plan that addresses their unique challenges, highlights their strengths, and offers them the tools, resources, and support they need to succeed.

Offer training and support

Host training sessions, workshops, and masterclasses on the topic of ADHD. These could be training sessions that teach managers and colleagues how they can help employees with ADHD. Alternatively, they could be ADHD management sessions that help employees with ADHD better manage their condition and leverage their strengths.

Make sure neurodivergent employees have access to support such as neurodivergent coaching and consultancy. Having a resource bank of helpful tools, documents, and strategies can also make it easier for people to support themselves and their colleagues with ADHD.

Final thoughts — Create an inclusive workplace where employees with ADHD can thrive ADHD is a common form of neurodivergence. Yet, it is also nuanced and no two experiences will be the same.

When supporting employees with ADHD, take care to recognise their unique talents and strengths, help them navigate their challenges, and give them the tools they need to reach their full potential. Employees with ADHD can be valuable assets to your organisation. Helping them thrive in the workplace can bring success and innovation to the rest of the company.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Champs Consulting, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses, and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.






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CHAMPS Consulting

CHAMPS Consulting

For more information from CHAMPS Consulting, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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