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What Does ADHD Look Like in the Workplace?

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

The 2019 Australian Deloitte survey identified managing ADHD in the workplace as one of the main issues adults ADHDers struggle with[1]. But what does ADHD look like in the workplace? While neurodiversity often presents differently, researchers have identified several common struggles for adults trying to manage ADHD in a neurotypical environment. Below I discuss four of these struggles, as well as links to some support for each area.


1. Difficulty With Focus

Several researchers who investigated adult ADHD in the workplace noted ADHD employee’s struggled to focus and complete tasks more than their neurotypical peers [2]–[5]. This was evident in difficulty completing paperwork, taking notes in meetings, or finishing one task rather than moving onto another. If you feel that this is something you struggle with, check out these articles on the get-in-focus routine and workplace fidget toys.


2. Scheduling And Organising Work.

Another area where researchers found those with ADHD struggled more compared to their peers was scheduling and organising large projects [6]. This manifested in struggling to prioritise tasks, follow through on tasks, and to break down big projects. Designing strategies to support workplace organisation is often very personalised as it is based on a combination of someone’s preferred systems and their environment. If you’re interested in learning more about developing ADHD systems of organisation, you can check out this article on planners and this article on prioritising to reduce overwhelm.


3. Working Memory

ADHDers often struggle with working memory, making it difficult in a workplace environment that relies on employees retaining and executing on pieces of knowledge that are frequently being continuously updated [7]. Possible workplace accommodations for this, as recommended by Painter and colleagues [7], included:

  • Recording meetings.

  • Having all requests and deadlines provided in written form.

  • Setting up daily planners within the organisation.

If you feel like working memory might be a struggle for you, you can also check out this article to learn more about it.


4. Emotional Regulation.

Another area where researchers noted ADHDers commonly struggled more than their neurotypical colleagues was regulating emotions [2], [4], [8], [9]. This was noted in situations where ADHD employees were more likely to struggle to work with colleagues or less likely tolerate workplace frustrations [8]. If you feel like this could be you, check out our articles on anger and rejection sensitivity disorder to learn more about these areas and the support available for them.


Remember that despite these workplace struggles, people with ADHD are also valuable employees with dedication, creative thinking, and problem-solving abilities [10]. At Unconventional Organisation, we often refer to this as a mix of ‘strong strengths and strong weaknesses.’ By using the available supports, both employees and employers can help maximise those strengths and support those weaknesses. Hopefully, this article reminds you that many adults with ADHD feel similarly and encourages you to begin that journey of learning about neurodiversity and developing workplace strategies.


Talk to you next week.


Skye.


Feeling overwhelmed and want to develop effective ADHD strategies?

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References

[1] D. A. Economics, ‘The social and economic costs of ADHD in Australia’. 2019.

[2] B. Arnold, P. Easteal, S. Easteal, and S. Rice, ‘It just doesn’t add up : ADHD / ADD, the workplace and discrimination.’, Melb. Univ. Law Rev., vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 359–391, doi: 10.3316/agispt.20113101.

[3] S. Abreu, ‘Navigating Choppy Water: Reasonable Accommodations in Standardized Testing and the Workplace for Individuals with ADHD’, Quinnipiac Health Law J., vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 1–38, 2019 2018.

[4] K. L. Barnett, ‘ADHD and Self-Regulation in the Workplace’, Ph.D., Walden University, United States -- Minnesota, 2019. Accessed: Nov. 03, 2020. [Online]. Available: http://search.proquest.com/docview/2161215966/abstract/940F84A52B9C431APQ/1

[5] A. S. Bell, ‘A Critical Review of ADHD Diagnostic Criteria: What to Address in the DSM-V’, J. Atten. Disord., vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 3–10, Jan. 2011, doi: 10.1177/1087054710365982.

[6] N. Bozionelos and G. Bozionelos, ‘Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder at Work: Does It Impact Job Performance?’, Acad. Manag. Perspect., vol. 27, no. 3, 2013, doi: 10.5465/amp.2013.0107.

[7] C. A. Painter, F. Prevatt, and T. Welles, ‘career beliefs and job satisfaction in adults with symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder’, J. Employ. Couns., vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 178–188, 2008, doi: 10.1002/j.2161-1920.2008.tb00057.x.

[8] J. L. Harris, ‘The Experience of Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in the Workplace’, Ph.D., Walden University, United States -- Minnesota, 2020. Accessed: Nov. 03, 2020. [Online]. Available: http://search.proquest.com/docview/2355929705/abstract/E6F5CF429DF042ECPQ/1

[9] M. Toner, T. O’Donoghue, and S. Houghton, ‘Living in Chaos and Striving for Control: How adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder deal with their disorder’, Int. J. Disabil. Dev. Educ., vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 247–261, Jun. 2006, doi: 10.1080/10349120600716190.

[10] C. J. Coleman, D. Cooney-Painter, and S. K. Moonga, ‘Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in the Workplace Under the ADA in the Wake of Sutton and Its Companions’, Empl. Responsib. Rights J., vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 47–61, Jun. 2000, doi: 10.1023/A:1007852129517.

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