Employees who have ADHD can be incredible assets to your business; however, they also face a unique set of challenges and difficulties that neurotypical employees do not. Here’s how to make your business ADHD friendly, and help your staff with ADHD fulfil their potential.
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and is a developmental disorder which affects around 2% of adults. According to the NHS, symptoms include:
carelessness and lack of attention to detail
continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones
poor organisational skills
inability to focus or prioritise
continually losing or misplacing things
restlessness and edginess
difficulty keeping quiet, and speaking out of turn
blurting out responses and often interrupting others
mood swings, irritability and a quick temper
inability to deal with stress
taking risks in activities, often with little or no regard for personal safety or the safety of others – for example, driving dangerously
It should also be noted that many of those suffering with ADHD are unaware that they have it, and may not receive a formal diagnosis. The waiting lists to be assessed for ADHD in the UK are currently around 2 years.
How can ADHD present at work?
ADHD could be characterised as a person having a racecar brain with bicycle brakes. This means that in the workplace, a person with ADHD might excel in coming up with new ideas, problem solving and finding solutions, multi-tasking but might struggle with implementation. They might be productive when they’re working on something difficult that they’re passionate about, but might take a long time completing an ‘easier’ or ‘simpler’ task.
Those with ADHD might struggle with communication with their peers or clients, which can sometimes lead to conflict. They might also be easily distracted, struggle with time management and have a high rate of errors of absences. Alongside this, they might be excelling in areas where they’re expected to think creatively or outside of the box, experience hyper focus on certain tasks and feel comfortable taking strategic risks.
A person with ADHD is also going to have a narrow window of tolerance; which is the space that they’re able to function effectively. If they are understimulated, they’ll be unable to focus on something; overstimulated, and they’re equally unable to function. Those with ADHD work best when they find the ‘right difficult’ - something that is challenging enough to stimulate them, but not so huge that it feels unmanageable.
Why ‘I don’t have any employees with ADHD’ probably isn’t true.
Employers and businesses need to be aware that employees may not choose to disclose to management that they have ADHD. They may be worried about the response of the business, whether the information will be kept private, or they may not even know themselves that ADHD is what they are struggling with.
As such, businesses cannot say that they don’t have any neurodiverse employees; it might be that they just aren’t aware.
What can employers do to help?
Employers can help their employees with ADHD by creating a workplace culture where mental health and disability are considered and respected. Encouraging discussions about inclusion for neurodiverse employees will help those who have ADHD to feel comfortable disclosing to management.
When a staff member discloses that they have ADHD to them, employers can listen attentively, and ask what their professional needs are. Employees are often aware of what needs to change in order for them to work more effectively; asking them directly allows them to problem solve. Employers can also help by reflecting on their own behaviour, and ask if there is anything they, or other staff members are doing which is making things difficult for the employee.
Employers should then make reasonable accommodations to help their employees flourish. This might include a flexible working style, increased supervision on larger tasks, or even professional training for themselves or the employees. Microsoft 365 also has a number of accessibility features which have been designed with neurodiversity in mind; check out our article on them here.
Work with ADHD, not against it
Employees with ADHD can bring a huge amount to your business; however, the key is to work with the employee rather than against them. Help them to identify their own strengths, and encourage work that allows them to excel. Look out for signs of burnout, and ensure that your employee is taking their breaks and their holidays. Encourage their creativity skills and strategic risk-taking, and celebrate their successes.
Employers that manage to do this whilst acknowledging and empathising with the challenges of ADHD are likely to create teams which de-stigmatize, and celebrate diversity and inclusion.
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