ADHD in the Workplace: Challenges, Understanding, and Adaptation

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In this episode, ADHD and executive function specialist Annika Ahlstrom discusses the challenges and nuances of ADHD in the workplace. With Kelly and Brian, they explore the effects of the pandemic on ADHD diagnoses, the importance of understanding and open dialogue in a workplace setting, and potential strategies for businesses to better support employees with ADHD.

Podcast Highlights: 

  • Annika defines ADHD and its manifestations, highlighting challenges in organization, planning, and time management.
  • Executive functioning is the brain’s system for getting things done.
  • The development of the brain continues until the mid to late 20s, which affects younger employees in the workforce. Undiagnosed ADHD can impact self-esteem, making it challenging for individuals to ask for assistance or discuss their difficulties.
  • The topic of ADHD is often avoided due to the stigma associated with it, leading to unresolved frustrations and potential conflicts in the workplace.
  • The pandemic disrupted many people’s routines and structures, prompting some adults to recognize and diagnose their ADHD for the first time.
  • The transition back to office post-pandemic is a potential disruptor for those with ADHD, requiring renewed adaptability and support.

Advice from Annika:

Personalized Communication: Start with direct communication with the employee to understand their specific needs and how best to support them. They are experts in their own experiences and can provide valuable insights into what might help them succeed in the workplace.

Visual Tools: Implementing visual tools such as calendars and analog clocks can be beneficial. These tools help those with executive function issues visualize time, tasks, and deadlines.

Periodic Check-ins: Regularly checking in with employees to assess the effectiveness of implemented strategies and tools and to adjust as needed.

Inclusivity: Encourage a culture where all employees, not just those with ADHD, can share ideas and strategies that may benefit everyone.

Addressing Skepticism: Recognize the potential for skepticism from other employees and address concerns about favoritism or taking advantage of accommodations. Emphasize that support is provided based on individual needs, not preferences.

Advocacy: Encourage employees to advocate for themselves and communicate their needs, emphasizing the importance of transparency and open communication during hiring and employment processes.

Performance Reviews: Address any observed challenges before formal performance reviews. Be proactive about understanding and addressing potential issues can prevent larger problems down the road.Understanding ADHD: Recognize that ADHD and executive function issues aren’t typically new challenges for affected individuals. Be sensitive in addressing concerns and understanding the background and development of these conditions.