ADHD and the Workplace

Adults with ADHD often run into problems at their jobs related to the symptoms of ADHD. Commonly reported difficulties include being distracted, running late, missing deadlines, procrastinating, being bored, or disagreeing with coworkers. Individuals with ADHD are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in most situations. This means that, should someone choose to disclose their diagnosis of ADHD to their employer, it is illegal for that person to be discriminated against on the basis of their disability alone.

The decision to disclose one’s disability at work is complicated, but can be beneficial if an employer can offer reasonable accommodations to improve the individual’s performance. However, adults with ADHD can make accommodations on their own that can help troubleshoot problems in the workplace that result from ADHD. The following are some suggestions to consider if you are struggling at work as a result of ADHD:

  1. Reduce distractions. Emails, phone calls, and visits from coworkers are disruptive and interfere with one’s ability to complete the task at hand. Try to reduce distractions by sending phone calls directly to voicemail, turning off email alerts, and working in a place where coworkers are less likely to interrupt. If possible, change work hours to include some time in the office when others may not be around or work from home when possible.
  2. Keep lists. Keep a blank notebook on hand to jot down ideas that are unrelated to the current task or that come up during meetings. This way, the ideas are not forgotten, but can be addressed at the appropriate time instead of interrupting the current job. Lists are also useful as reminders of long-term projects, deadlines, and important meetings.
  3. Take breaks. Sitting still for long periods of time is difficult for people who have ADHD, so schedule breaks in the day to satisfy the need to move and refresh the ability to focus on the task at hand.
  4. Reward yourself. Take note of small accomplishments throughout the day and track progress on long-term projects. The strategies outlined above are most effective when reinforced, so setting specific goals and recognizing when they have been met is an important part of managing ADHD.
  5. Ask for and accept feedback. Ask a trusted coworker to help monitor progress towards the goals that are related to improving performance on the job. Being accountable to another person helps individuals with ADHD stay on track and focus on meeting their goals.
  6. Consider your career choice. Individuals are more likely to succeed in careers that utilize one’s strengths and assets while capturing the interest of the employee. For individuals who suffer from ADHD, the wrong job/employee fit can exacerbate symptoms and magnify problems in the workplace. In contrast, the right fit can provide a more enjoyable and fulfilling work experience and improve performance overall.

Sources: Nat’l Resource Center for ADHD/CHADD