For an adult with ADHD, work brings its own set of difficulties. Unlocking ADHD writer Tricia Lim explores how companies can support employees with ADHD.
Individuals with ADHD are often highly creative. Thus, they can bring novel solutions and innovative ideas to the workplace.
However, these valuable qualities can sometimes be shrouded by symptoms of ADHD that are not effectively accommodated. This can cause them to underperform at work.
If an employee shares that they are facing difficulties because of their symptoms, here are six steps that employers can take to support them and unlock their potential.
1. Identify the problems and discuss what might help
It is essential to first have a discussion with your employees themselves. ADHD affects everyone differently, Thus, the problems faced will differ amongst individuals. Identify the specific difficulties they face in the workplace and be open to considering accommodations that they suggest. You will find that providing them with suitable and reasonable accommodations is not difficult and can, in return, uncover a unique set of skills that value-add to the workplace.
2. Create a conducive work environment
Working environments can have a particularly strong influence on employees with ADHD. Providing a quiet workspace away from “high traffic areas” can greatly help to minimise auditory and visual distractions. One other possibility is the use of noise-cancellation headsets or white noise while working. These strategies can go a long way in supporting ADHDers at work.
However, it may be hard to have complete control over the work environment. Alternatives include offering the use of unoccupied meeting rooms when the environment is not conducive for focusing. Also, partial or full telecommuting arrangements could work for ADHDers who are better able to focus at home.
3. Support the use of helping tools
Perhaps you find that your ADHD employees are prone to showing up late for meetings, or forgetting about the issues covered during meetings. Workarounds include allowing the use of an audio recorder for meetings (particularly for longer meetings) and the use of alerts as reminders for appointments or meetings. Additionally, these alerts should be prominent enough for ADHDers to notice even when they are hyper-focusing. For the hyperactive ADHDers, the use of stress balls for fidgeting may help to improve focus.
4. Set clear deadlines
Long-term thinking may come easily to many of us, enabling us to comfortably plan ahead and follow long-term timelines for large projects. However, ADHDers are often susceptible to “time blindness”. As a result, ADHDers struggle with keeping track of the multitude of tasks with varying scopes and deadlines.
To help your employees stay on track, break big projects down into smaller parts and set short-term deadlines for individual parts. You could assist with prioritising tasks and check-in regularly to provide feedback on work progress.
5. Be flexible in scheduling
Typical 9-to-5 work days already take up a significant amount of energy and focus from even the best of us. Naturally, employees with ADHD may find it an even bigger struggle to stay focused throughout an 8-hour workday, five times a week.
Structured breaks will give your employee opportunities for physical movement (physical activity has several benefits for ADHDers). In addition, you could consider flexible scheduling (i.e. permitting employees to come in earlier and in return, allowing them to take more breaks throughout the day) Discuss what arrangement would work best with your employees. After all, they are the best people to know when they are most and least productive.
6. Put instructions and assigned tasks in writing.
Instead of relying solely on verbal instructions (which can be easier to forget or misunderstand), providing written instructions will ensure that employees remember even the small things. In fact, this isn’t limited to only employees with ADHD – frequent users of paper Post-it notes or note-taking applications would know.
It is unfortunate that the stigma against mental health conditions remains prevalent in Singapore. Sadly, employers often see ADHD as a liability in the workplace despite the numerous success stories of ADHDers who have forged successful careers and achieved much in their lives. Rather than succumbing to the harmful stigma against ADHD, take a step forward and discover for yourself the value that ADHDers can bring with the right management techniques.