Attention Deficit Disorder Needn’t Be A Hurdle in the Workplace

Image Credit: Flickr Commons, Hendrik Wieduwilt “Commuters”

It is well known that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects children and teenagers, but how much it affects adults, particularly in the workplace, is less commonly understood.

Up to two-thirds of children with symptoms of ADHD continue to show signs of the condition into their adult life. A study conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) surveying 7,000 workers in 10 countries found that 245 had ADHD.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a group of behavioural symptoms that include lack of concentration, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Adults with ADHD will often find that their memory, organisational skills, time management and overall can be often problematic.

ADHD can’t be cured but it can be managed, with a combination of medication and, in some cases, psychological therapy. It tends to improve with age but some people will continue to experience symptoms into their adult life. The difficulty then comes in the workplace with the associated problems that may affect their career.

ADHD At Work

How seriously ADHD affects a person’s ability to do their job will depend on the severity of their symptoms and the type of work that they do. In the most serious of cases, adults with ADHD will have a chequered employment history, moving from job to job as they experience performance issues. According to the WHO, adults with ADHD lose an average of three weeks of productivity a year and often take more sick days.

On a day-to-day basis, an employee with ADHD may find it hard to:

– stay organised and focused in a meeting

– manage numerous projects at any one time

– manage their time, both in terms of arriving at work and meeting deadlines

– control their emotions.

What Can An Employer Do?

Under the Equality Act 2010, an employee with ADHD may be considered to have a disability if their condition has a “substantial” and “long-term” negative effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

If this is the case, an employer is under a duty to consider making reasonable adjustments to the role in order for the employee to remain in the job. However, an employee may not be aware of their condition meaning an employer may also be unaware. Therefore, poor performance at work may be addressed without taking into account this potential disability. If an employer does have knowledge of a worker having ADHD, then there is an obligation to consider what reasonable adjustments need to be made.

Some roles are more “ADHD friendly” than others. Such as any jobs that involve moving around rather than sitting at a desk all day, although any role could consider making these adjustments:

– working flexibly, possibly at home, to avoid distractions in the workplace

– using headphones to muffle sounds

– facing a desk away from busy areas in the office

– working on particular tasks or projects for a shorter period of time and then going back to them later when the employee feels less distracted

– encouraging the use of notes in meetings so that there is a clear record of what is discussed and any comments they have can be submitted, rather than shouting them out in meetings;

– 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

– structuring the working day so that there is a clear plan to follow

– providing appropriate supervision to support the employee and help them manage their time

– allowing employees to delegate work where appropriate, for example dictating documents that are then typed up by someone else

Recognise Stronger Skills

Employees with ADHD often have above-average creativity and intelligence levels and can be an invaluable resource to any business, especially in roles where creative flair and being able to “think outside the box” are key skills.

Employers should be aware that staff members may be suffering from ADHD and must identify how they can work together to develop coping strategies to help harness the skills of employees with the condition.

If you’d like to discuss a case of this nature in your workplace, or require some advice on managing a similar situation please get in touch at [email protected] or call 01386 751 740.