More adults are receiving their diagnosis for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It begs the question of what workplaces can do to support them.
In the UK, there are over 1.5 million adults that have ADHD. However, only 4.9% of women will be diagnosed in their lifetime compared to 12% of men. This is due to ADHD in women being “harder” to identify and diagnose.
What Is ADHD?
According to the NHS, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition affecting brain structure and
neurotransmission—the way in which messages are communicated around the brain
and different areas of the brain are activated. While adults might be getting diagnosed, ADHD is present from childhood and is considered to be a hereditary condition.
There are three core symptom groups of ADHD: Inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. These can also contribute to the following symptoms:
- Difficulties with concentration, short term and working memory
- Finding it hard to plan and get started
- Organisation and losing things
- Can get easily distracted by small things
- Speaking on the spur of the moment or without thinking
- Struggles to control emotions
- Restlessness or the need to tap or fidget
How Does ADHD Present Itself In The Workplace?
Businesses are in a position to support adults who are diagnosed with ADHD or who are going through the process of being assessed. Unfortunately, there is a risk that without this support they could suffer from low mental health.
This is because there are certain situations where an ADHD individual’s traits are thought to be poor behaviour rather than an expression of their condition that requires support, according to ADHD UK. Some examples could include:
- Not waiting to speak could be seen that as the person being rude or arrogant. However, an ADHD person is actually interested in the conversation and wants to pick up on a point or share an idea before they forget
- Another trait that employees might see as negative is forgetfulness. This could result in missing meetings or being delivered by a certain deadline. Colleagues might assume that this means that the ADHD person does not care enough about their work or the people they work with. The reality is, however, that this is part of having ADHD and it can upset the person more than the colleagues
According to UNISON, there is also the added complexity for people with ADHD that they might have been masking their condition throughout their lives. This means that ADHD people might feel they have to prove their disability or are simply learning to live with their condition without masking.
How Can Employers Support ADHD Workers?
As ADHD is considered a disability, it falls under the Equalities Act. This means that as an employer, you need to make reasonable adjustments for employees that have ADHD. However, according to UNISON many people with ADHD struggle to obtain the adjustments that they need to thrive at work.
“In many cases, they do not pursue reasonable adjustments at all thus struggle when expected to complete the same amount of work, in the same time, to the same standard as their peers who do not have ADHD or other impairments,” says the trade union. “Those people who do not receive support at work are not only disadvantaged at work, but this feeds into their ability to manage their ADHD outside of work.”
According to the NHS, there are things that employers can do to support their employees with ADHD:
- Offering a desk facing away from busy areas in the office
- “Do not disturb” signs for office doors
- Written information with tasks
- Offering to help to structure tasks
- Work flexibly, possibly at home on occasion
- Constructive feedback
- Review progress and reinforce positive management strategies, provide positive praise
- Allowing employees to delegate work where appropriate, for example dictating documents that are then typed up by someone else
- Promoting the use of team working so that all skills are utilised and those employees who may find organisation more difficult can be used in different areas for different tasks
Other coping strategies can include:
- Noise-canceling headphones help to block out other sounds if someone is noise-sensitive or distracted by noise
- A big computer screen or two screens to be able to see information clearly
- Working from home time
- Asking people to delegate tasks to me via email, with a deadline to reduce panicking about getting it all done at once
Ensuring that people with ADHD get the support they deserve in the workplace benefits their wellbeing and mental health. It also means that companies can thrive from their talents and traits.
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