If you are reading this, it may be because you are employing, or considering
employing, someone who has told you that they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder (ADHD). Or perhaps they have symptoms and ADHD has been raised as a
possible cause for them. Or maybe you’re an adult with ADHD and might find this information helpful to share with your employer.
This guide aims to answer the many questions that you may have about ADHD:
What is ADHD?
How will it affect my employee and on the rest of the team and organisation?
What can I do to support them?
Not everyone with ADHD will need extra support in the workplace, and those who do may need only small changes to help them to work effectively. Most of these will cost little or nothing to implement.
People with ADHD often talk about lack of support from their employer as a reason why they may end up leaving a job. However, with support, understanding and some small changes to capitalise on their strengths and talents and get around difficulties, they are likely to be a great asset to your organisation.
Many people with ADHD are noted for strengths such as:
- Ability to ‘hyperfocus’ on things they are interested in
- Willingness to take risks
- Spontaneous and flexible
- Good in a crisis
- Creative ideas – thinking outside the box
- Relentless energy
- Often optimistic
- Being motivated by short term deadlines – working in sprints, rather than marathons
- Often an eye for detail
Remember: Everyone with ADHD is different, and the condition affects different people in different ways. People with ADHD have the same broad range of skills, interests and intelligence as the rest of society. It’s important to communicate openly with your employee so that you can find out what support would help them most and ask them any questions you may have.
What types of jobs suit people with ADHD?
Bearing in mind that everyone with ADHD is unique, there are as many jobs for people with ADHD as there are people with ADHD! However, in general, jobs which play to the strengths of people with ADHD provide:
- Good fit with individual’s interests and skills – boredom and low interest will make focus much more difficult
- Structured work day
- Opportunities for movement
- Stimulation – reaction to incoming demands
- Regular and fairly immediate feedback
- Need for high levels of concentration to manage risk (e.g. industrial safety monitoring, long distance driving)
How can people with ADHD be supported at work?
ADHD, if its impact on the individual is significant, can be seen as a disability under the 2010 Equality Act – and therefore employers have a responsibility to protect employees and potential employees from discrimination and harassment, and to make reasonable adjustments to assist them to do their jobs.
But beyond the legal obligation to offer support, doing this will help the person with ADHD to perform to their very best and this is good all round. The number one way in which employers can support employees with ADHD is to find out about the condition and show understanding and a reasonable degree of flexibility in relation to the difficulties which it can cause.
Examples of this might include:
- Agreeing a 15 minute start and finish time window, rather than a rigid fixed start time with sanctions for being slightly late
- Allowing the employee to delegate non-core aspects of the job which they find particularly difficult to complete, such as completing paperwork / timesheets – which otherwise might make the whole job unachievable. Reasonable adjustments which employers might make to help people with ADHD include: Modifications to the work environment
- Visual prompts – e.g. wall charts for routines, checklists, post-it notes for reminders
- Physical reminders – e.g. laying out everything needed for tomorrow at the end of today, labelled ‘homes’ for storing tools
- Larger computer screens so everything is visible (reduces burden on memory)
- Visible clocks, allowing / encouraging use of alarms and timers
- Reducing distractions: Allow headphones with music or ambient noise, or ear plugs – own space if possible, with reduced level of distraction
- Modifications to working and management practices
- Offer increased supervision / frequent check-ins and feedback (e.g. daily or weekly planning and progress meetings with line manager)
- Tasks broken down into clear, bite size steps
- Give instructions and meeting notes in writing rather than verbally
- Operate a buddy system for tasks to help maintain focus
- Allow regular movement / stretching breaks:
- Pomodoro working (25 mins work + 5 mins break, with longer break after 4 Pomodoros)
- Scheduled breaks during long meetings / activities
Allowing useful technology
There are a number of apps which can assist people with ADHD and related difficulties. However, these are not a ‘magic bullet’ and the wrong app can just put an extra burden on memory – so the key is to talk to the employee about what would help them within their particular work context and try things out. Potentially helpful apps include:
- To do list reminders / scheduling apps (e.g. Todoist, Wunderlist)
- Aids if reading and writing are a problem
- Speech to text software (e.g. Google Docs Voice Typing, Apple Dictation)
- Text to speech software (e.g. Captivoice.com)
- Blockers to eliminate distractions from social media / smart phones during tasks (e.g. Cold Turkey)
- White noise / ambient noise apps (e.g. Coffivity, Focusatwill)
- Note taking apps (can be as simple as notes function on phone)
People with ADHD may benefit from regular sessions with a work coach who can help them to develop their organisation and time management skills and strategies. Some coaches are happy to provide support remotely over telephone / Skype.
Talking to your employee needs to be more than a one-off conversation. Try to build a relationship where they feel they can trust you, and you can both talk about any concerns. For example, you could arrange a quarterly meeting to talk about how their ADHD is affecting them and how any reasonable adjustments you’ve agreed on are working for them and for the organisation.
Confidentiality and the rest of the team
Most people with ADHD don’t have to tell their employer about it, so deciding to reveal their diagnosis will have taken courage. Many people are afraid they will be seen as less capable or as troublesome – especially given the stigma that surrounds ADHD. They may fear that ADHD might affect their career progression – or even that they could lose their job as a result. It’s important to recognise this, and to provide your employee with the reassurance and the support they need. You should take care to ensure that any information your employee shares with you about their ADHD remains confidential.
- Do not discuss their ADHD with other team members, unless they have said you can.
- Do not discuss their ADHD with them where other people may find out, such as in an email that could be passed on, or in an open-plan office.
- If your employee has an occupational health assessment, clarify with them exactly who can see the report.
- If you have documents discussing your employee’s ADHD, make sure they are kept secure. Your employee’s ADHD can also have an impact on other members of staff. As the employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure any impact is handled sensitively, and not ignored, while also respecting your employee’s confidentiality. You may want to discuss with your employee whether they want to tell colleagues about their ADHD. If other members of staff know why they are being allowed greater flexibility or other adjustments, such as use of headphones, they may be more accommodating.
This information was compiled by The Scottish ADHD Coalition.
To provide comments or feedback on this guide please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit www.scottishadhdcoalition.org to find out more about their work.
Version 1 – March 2018 Scottish ADHD Coalition, Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation no. SC047630