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Coping with ADHD in the workplace

July 20, 2021

October is ADHD awareness month and I think it would be useful to consider how, as employers, we can support those with the condition to feel welcome and how we should be open to addressing any workplace issues that may hinder their career progression.  It is also a good opportunity to explore some coping strategies to help with anxiety during the working day.


It is now widely accepted that any form of discrimination in the workplace is unfair and legislated against. However, no matter how well-meaning we are, there are those who still feel discriminated against and I do hear some anecdotal evidence from time to time when working with clients who are unhappy at work.  The moral case for building a fair and inclusive workplace is indisputable – it benefits everyone.   However, organisations must not put any group at a disadvantage.  We all deserve the opportunity to develop our talents and skills to our fullest potential regardless of our identity or background.


Individuals with ADHD may find certain tasks or situations difficult; these may manifest themselves for example in problems such as short attention spans, hyperactivity, organisation and memory, and distraction.


Let’s take a look at each of these and some coping strategies to assist in a practical way.


A.     Hyperactivity: In adults this can manifest itself in feelings of restlessness.  Having a job that involves sitting in one place may not be a great option.  

        Here are some tips to cope with this:

·        Take regular breaks – walk away from your desk and if you can take a short walk outside

·        Using distraction techniques such as hand weights so you can do some bicep curls whilst working will help

·        Instead of using email or phone, go and see a co-worker for a face to face chat


B.     Short Attention span:  In adults this can manifest itself in not being able to concentrate for long periods. It can also impact listening and distraction during times of high stress.   

         Here are a few coping tips:

·        Break down big tasks into manageable goals

·        Schedule breaks into your day to avoid getting stuck on specific tasks – you could even use a stopwatch to time yourself


 C.     Organisation and Memory:  This manifests itself in time-management issues; being unable to meet deadlines especially if they are large projects with time sensitive deadlines.

         Consider these coping strategies to help you:

·        Be confident you know your role in whatever project you are working on. Taking regular notes in meetings will help you

·        If you can and it is permitted, record any meetings you attend

·        Use your planner or diary to keep track of everything you need to do and tick your completed tasks off.  This will bring a sense of achievement and progress and reduce stress           and anxiety

·        Set alerts on your devices which will provide reminders for scheduled tasks such as phone calls and meetings etc


D.    Distraction : This is a huge challenge for all ADHD sufferers.  The workplace can be a noisy, busy place and if we add the pressures of work into the mix, it can be hugely        challenging.  

        Here are some coping strategies to try

·        Try to eliminate any noise by closing the office door if you can

·        Decrease the clutter on your desk

·        Have a set time to read emails (first thing in the morning for 10 minutes, again at lunch time and finally mid-afternoon for example)

·        If your desk is a ‘highway’ with lots of movement around you, ask if you can move to a quieter space

·        If you have important documents to read or need to concentrate on something important, wear headphones to block off the noise around you.


With coping strategies in place, you can overcome most issues that may affect your performance. Asking for help when needed and getting support will enable you to thrive in your career.  


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