ADHD at Work: Tips for Employees with ADHD
Going to work is a necessity of life for most, and for adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the challenges are more significant. Adults with ADHD successfully work with less stress and much greater satisfaction with the correct diagnosis and individualized treatment.
If you believe you have the symptoms of ADHD, take this Free 2-minute Self Evaluation. At Klarity, diagnosis is where we begin the journey to help you.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurobehavioral mental health disorder characterized by impulsivity, hyperactivity, and short attention span. In general, no two people with ADHD express the disorder precisely alike. Some patients may be highly social, while others are withdrawn. Some may have a high concentration level with things that interest them, while others are continuously challenged to concentrate regardless of interest. Once diagnosed, individuals with ADHD have responded to treatment for their symptoms and report greatly improved satisfaction in their work and personal lives.
ADHD in Adults
While ADHD is typically associated with children, the American Psychiatric Association reports that an estimated 2.5% of adults have ADHD. Other sources put that figure at upwards of 4%, and the number may be growing upwards of 5% as diagnostics continue to improve. While single-digit percentages may not sound like a high number, it equates to millions of adults. ADHD is a disorder across the lifespan of the patient. An adult diagnosed with ADHD likely had it as a child but was simply not diagnosed earlier.
There are three main types of ADHD; Inattentive Type, Hyperactive/Impulsive Type, and Combination Type. Each has its symptoms.
Inattentive Type - The patient generally displays most of the below symptoms but few of the hyperactive-impulsive type.
Carelessness resulting in mistakes
Inability to stay on task
Inattention/Not appearing to listen/Mind wandering
Inability to follow or comprehend instructions
Task avoidance, especially for tasks that require sustained attention
Lack of focus
Difficulty in organizing tasks (i.e., poor time management, messy, disorganized work product)
Hyperactive-Impulsive Type - in general, the patient displays most of the below symptoms but few of the inattentive type
Inability to remain still, i.e., fidgeting/squirming
Getting up often when seated, i.e., moving away from the workplace
The necessity to “burn off” excess energy/restlessness
Inability to work quietly
Talking too much, inappropriate conversation patterns
Often “on the go” as if “driven by a motor”
Combination Type is the most common type of ADHD where the patient displays a relatively equal amount of both Attentive and Hyperactive/Impulsive symptoms.
Understanding ADHD at Work
In the workplace, ADHD can cause significant disruption in the flow of work, productivity, and interpersonal relations and lead to safety issues. Being aware of this condition and taking affirmative steps to manage and accommodate it benefits all.
ADHD at Work Statistics
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, of the millions of adults affected by ADHD, less than 20% are diagnosed and treated, which can result in much tumult in the workplace. The ADHD Awareness Coalition recently conducted a survey in which they found that “more than half (60 percent) of adults with ADHD surveyed said they had lost or changed a job and attributed the job loss to their ADHD symptoms. More than 36 percent reported having 4 or more jobs in the past 10 years, and 6.5 percent responded they have had 10 or more jobs within the past 10 years.”
How Does ADHD Affect You at Work?
At work, your ADHD can cause you significant challenges. Unfocused thinking, inability to remain on task, inappropriate interactions with others, and potential safety violations can lead to an employment catastrophe. On the flip side, many ADHD patients also possess valuable skills such as creativity, hyperfocus, and out-of-the-box thinking. Recognizing ADHD symptoms, getting a diagnosis, and following the recommended treatment can profoundly affect you and your work.
ADHD & Mistakes at Work
Untreated ADHD can cause you to make mistakes at work. Those mistakes may range from simple to catastrophic. Recognizing your symptoms and addressing them is a proactive way to minimize potentially career-ending mistakes, or worse.
7 Tips for Managing ADHD at Work
Adults with ADHD can be deeply embarrassed by their symptoms and anxious and depressed about their work. This complicates how and if they seek treatment. While there is no substitute for medical diagnosis and professional treatment of ADHD, the following are techniques that may help when your symptoms appear.
1. Remain Focused
Focus is the ability to concentrate. Minimizing distractions helps your focus. A quiet, uncluttered workspace, putting your phone away, no food or beverages next to you, having a list of priorities and instructions immediately available are all examples of techniques to help you remain focused.
2. Deal with Impulsivity and Temper
Interpersonal relationships at work and within work teams are critical. Outbursts of temper rarely end well. Learning to recognize your triggers and pre-planning how to avoid them can minimize potential incidents. When you feel the sensation that you are about to engage in an impulsive act, an effective technique is to immediately stop what you are doing and take a deep breath. Ask your colleagues for a minute to regroup your thoughts. Take calm, deep, and reassuring breaths. If possible, walk away to allow yourself the time you need and return when the symptoms have passed.
3. Cope with Hyperactivity
Many adults with ADHD feel the need to be in constant movement. Proactively setting up a system of breaks in work to allow for scheduled movement can greatly assist you. Changes in diet, i.e., avoiding caffeine and sugars (stimulants), regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep are additional techniques that help address hyperactivity. Items such as stress-balls and under-the-desk leg exercisers are also helpful, but be careful to limit the number of devices to avoid them becoming a distraction.
4. Deal with Memory Issues
Memory issues are frustrating and a great source of embarrassment for adults with ADHD. Write down the details or instructions and a timetable for each task at the time it is assigned. Once written, it is helpful to repeat it back to ensure accuracy. Memory challenges can be significantly diminished by good communication skills.
5. Deal with Boredom
Boredom and monotony at work are triggers for many of the ADHD symptoms. While time and task management are important, setting up a series of breaks and rewards for certain levels of progress can greatly improve “boredom” with a task. Meditation or “mindfulness” techniques alleviate boredom. In addition to trained therapeutic techniques, there are also smartphone apps and online guided meditations that an adult with ADHD can use for free or very inexpensively.
6. Avoid Procrastination
To avoid procrastination, “don’t put off to tomorrow, what you can do today” is an excellent motto for adults with ADHD. It is very easy to bargain with yourself over completing necessary tasks and inadvertently creating a no-win situation as a result. When you find that you are putting off a job, ask yourself why. Take a few moments to gather the reasons and determine if it is due to a real need, i.e., lack of information, or is it due to your ADHD? Recognition is half the battle, and mental discipline to put yourself back on task is needed. Reward yourself at regular intervals for staying on task.
7. Practice Effective Time Management
“On time, every time” is the goal of successful employees. Few things are as satisfying as ticking off a completed work assignment. Hence, a priority list with an estimated time for each task is a great reward and reminder system. Keeping a clock nearby helps you track your time on any given task, which is crucial for time management. Be realistic about time frames and discuss any needs or concerns with your supervisor.
Work Accommodations for Those with ADHD
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes ADHD as a disability, although not everyone with ADHD is considered a “qualified individual” under the ADA. ADHD might also be regarded as a serious health condition triggering Family and Medical Leave Act rights or other protections under similar state laws.
Your provider can provide you with your medical evaluation report within 2 days. This report helps your employer make decisions and take action on reasonable accommodations.
ADHD and Working from Home
Working from home provides unique challenges but also some benefits to ADHD patients. On the positive side, you generally can move around when needed, and the potential for adverse human interactions is lessened. On the downside, the ability to be distracted, lose focus, and not remain on task can lead to serious career challenges. Setting a specific work schedule, double-checking instructions from your supervisor, creating checklists, and sticking to them, are ways to combat ADHD symptoms.
Best Jobs for People with ADHD
People with ADHD undergoing treatment for their symptoms can be excellent and inspired employees when performing the right job with the correct structures in place. While there isn’t a one size fits all career that is a “best” job for people with ADHD, those roles which allow for an individual to have a varied approach to their work, non-monotonous/not highly repetitive in nature, and allow for freedom of movement can be highly beneficial. Jobs such as teacher, health care/daycare worker, writer, chef, cosmetician, engineering/computer technician, and artist provide work that generally appeals to ADHD patients.
ADHD Causing Problems at Work? Treatment is Available via Klarity
With greater than a decade of experience in treating adult ADHD, the skilled team of licensed professionals on Klarity are committed to providing simplified and personalized care for our ADHD clients. ADHD is a complicated medical condition, and there is no “one size fits all” type of treatment. Klarity makes available online ADHD treatment options tailored to the individual client and their needs. In general, patients benefit from a multi-phasic treatment plan consisting of diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, counseling, behavior modification techniques, and ongoing care from an experienced provider. Contact Klarity to schedule an appointment with a provider to start your journey to ADHD management.