As more adults receive or seek diagnoses of ADHD, employers are learning more about how to support them in the workplace. Leanne Maskell lists five ways organisations can help.
More adults than ever before are finding out they have ADHD, presenting unique challenges and opportunities for employers.
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, can be an ‘invisible’ disability, meaning employers – and individuals themselves – may not always know it’s there. This can prevent employees from being able to show up authentically as themselves at work, access the support they need, or harness their unique strengths in the workplace.
Employers also have a legal duty to protect employees from disability-based discrimination, including to make reasonable adjustments to level up the playing field – but this can be difficult if nobody knows how or where to start.
This duty applies regardless of formal medical diagnosis – a situation which is further complicated by NHS assessment waiting lists of up to seven years, and private costs running into thousands.
By following these golden rules, HR can cultivate an ADHD-friendly culture in the workplace to enable everybody to understand, support, and harness the unique abilities accompanying invisible conditions like ADHD at work.
1. Have an accessible reasonable adjustments policy
Having clear, centralised policies and procedures in place explaining topics including neurodiversity, disability, and reasonable adjustments, is key to cultivating an ADHD-friendly workplace culture.
These foundations can mean the difference between an employee with ADHD feeling safe to disclose it at work or not.
Using accessible language, HR can clearly set out a range of scenarios and explain what support is available, reassuring neurodivergent employees and their colleagues on next steps and responsibilities.
This includes preparing managers to understand their roles and powers to implement support: ADHD is not just an ‘HR thing’.
It can also be extremely helpful to identify certain employees or departments that can provide relevant support for employees, to help centralise this information and make processes as efficient as possible.
2. Make it easy to access support
In my experience as an ADHD Coach, people often disclose ADHD at work when they have to.
For example, they may have applied for the government’s Access to Work scheme, which can help fund support such as ADHD coaching, but requires confirmation of employment.
They may also be experiencing discrimination or facing performance reviews, but HR can avoid these situations by making it easy to access support as early as possible.
This requires simplicity – especially when it comes to ADHD. Examples could include having an ‘FAQ’ resources page, step-by-step guides to things such as Access to Work applications, or template emails people can use to disclose ADHD at work.
Normalising these processes makes them easy to use for everybody, especially people with ADHD who can struggle to ask for help.
3. Promote collaborative, curious and compassionate conversations
If you’ve met one person with ADHD, you’ve met one person with ADHD. The condition can present differently in everybody, and is highly situational.
As no instruction manual is handed to people after they’re diagnosed, it can be very challenging for them to understand what workplace support could help them.
Neurodiversity at work
How HR and managers can support employees with ADHD
HR can help to cultivate psychological safety by providing reassurance to employees and space to explore what works for them. For example, this could be in the form of empowering employees via specialised coaching to explore the challenges and opportunities their ADHD presents, then identifying and implementing relevant adjustments.
Talking about conditions like ADHD at work can be challenging for everybody, as nobody wants to say the ‘wrong’ thing.
External support such as occupational health services can be helpful, but is not a replacement for vulnerable conversations at work about ongoing support. Managers can be supported with additional training opportunities, and reassurance that they can implement relevant adjustments for individuals as needed.
HR can also cultivate an ADHD-friendly culture by establishing processes empowering everybody to work together on identifying best ways of working for neurodivergent employees.
It’s especially important to include individuals themselves in such conversations, so they can be involved in and understand the reasons behind decisions that relate to them. Having compassionate, ‘human to human’ conversations can lead to extraordinary results.
4. Share best practice
As conversations about how to best support ADHD in the workplace become more common, it can be helpful to provide examples of best practice and support that’s worked before.
Consider using blog posts or podcasts (with permission) that help to demonstrate standards for other employees to follow.
Having open conversations about ADHD at work, especially involving HR, can break down barriers of fear and stigma, cultivating an inclusive and supportive workplace culture. Doing this externally can also lead to significant opportunities, possibly resonating with the 1 in 7 people who are neurodivergent.
5. Provide ongoing conversations
It’s important to remember that ADHD isn’t a ‘one time’ deal. It’s a life-long neurodevelopmental condition, even if it’s something a person has learned about themselves as an adult.
This means symptoms can manifest differently at different times, and adjustments that might work at one point might no longer work later on. As they learn more about the condition, they may wish to try different approaches, such as flexible working hours or locations.
Providing them with the opportunity and trust to implement these without having to jump through excess hoops or repeatedly justify themselves will result in productive, loyal, and happy employees thriving in an ADHD-friendly culture at work.
Finally, people with ADHD have limitless potential in the workplace and can provide exceptional value to employers.
Scientifically proven strengths such as creativity, innovation and integrity accompany ADHD, and can be harnessed at work with ongoing opportunities to use them to their full advantage.
Having an ADHD-friendly culture at work empowers people to make ADHD work for them, adapting their environment to reach their full potential because of their unique brain wiring – rather than in spite of it.
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