ADHD at Work | Tips if You or a Co-Worker Struggle to FocusRosie Chevalier Jan 31, 2022 10:00 AM Illustration by Marian Blair
Great news for anyone whose work experience is affected by ADHD: you’re not alone! Even better, there are ways to deal with the challenges it can create, and it may even give you a few office superpowers.
Experts estimate that about eight million adults have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), many of whom are productive and successful at a variety of careers; of course there are still misconceptions and stigmas. However, society’s perceptions of neurodiversity are ever-evolving, and we’re learning more and more about how to harness the challenges and advantages (yes, there are advantages!) of ADHD at work.
Challenges ADHD can pose at work
ADHD can create threats to productivity and focus at work that go beyond distractibility or time management struggles.
Here are some common symptoms for adults struggling with ADHD in the workplace:
The upside? There are multiple effective tactics to cope—and even thrive—with ADHD at work.
Strategies to stay organized and on task
There are many—often simple—strategies that can help with focus issues at work.
How to work with co-workers who struggle to focus
Maybe you don’t have trouble focusing, but perhaps you work with a colleague, manager, or direct report who does. Try to handle the situation with sensitivity and empathy by only discussing the issue in terms of how work performance is affected, and leave out any mention of their diagnosis or symptoms. Not only is their relationship with ADHD their business, it’s possible that they don’t have it or they do but don’t know it.
If someone you manage comes to you for help, listen and support, and consult your HR department for guidance. If your organization doesn’t have an HR department, seek out other resources that can help you both educate yourself and stay within legally appropriate territory. Be sure to offer clear boundaries and deadlines (vague concepts like “soon” won’t set your employee up for success) and keep in mind that it’s possible that making simple accommodations for one individual could benefit the whole team.
Benefits of ADHD in the workplace
If you have ADHD, it’s likely that you also have positive attributes that can help you to be specifically adaptable and essential.
Discussing ADHD at work
At this point, you may be asking yourself whether ADHD is really a disability. Well, the answer is complicated.
Employees with ADHD can be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, an employee must prove specific barriers to job performance, and be able to sort out reasonable accommodations with their employer (if the state requires it).
While we still have a long way to go to improve support for those with ADHD in the workplace, many find that talking with their managers about simple fixes (with or without mentioning ADHD) can be beneficial. It’s entirely up to you whether you want to share your diagnosis at work. Either way, exploring ways to optimize your talents and communicating your needs to your team can help you all achieve success.
For more tips on staying focused at work, check out our post on Staying Focused During Virtual Meetings.
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Rosie Chevalier is a writer in Chicago who has written for Chicago Education Advocacy Cooperative, Points In Case, RobotButt, Reliving History, and more. She has worked with multiple theatre companies. volunteered across Chicago, and taught writing, acting, and improv to all ages. Her interests include dogs, the news, boats, holidays, and her family, and she's currently attempting to enjoy cooking.