How to support employees with ADHD

How to support employees with ADHD

People with ADHD need help from the industry and Nabs in order to thrive. Here’s how organisations can provide positive support.

ADHD is often in the news with good reason. According to the charity ADHD UK, 2.6m people in the UK live with the condition (with 1.9m of them adults). 

So it’s likely that people in your teams will be affected — and they need your support. 

How ADHD shows up can vary from person to person. What’s common is that ADHD can have positive effects, such as the ability to hyper-focus and heightened creativity, alongside challenges, including issues with attention and organisation.  

More support required

With the right support mechanisms, people with ADHD can be their best selves at work. Yet without help and understanding, people living with ADHD can find life very difficult. In some cases, when left unsupported, ADHDers can experience depression, financial problems and even addiction. 

As awareness of the condition grows, so are the numbers of people receiving diagnoses. Yet many remain undiagnosed. Wait times on the NHS are long, while securing a private diagnosis can be prohibitively expensive. While those affected await a diagnosis, they still have to live with their symptoms, leading to compounded stress and struggle.  

On the Nabs Advice Line, we’re starting to hear from more and more people in our industry who aren’t receiving the support they need at work. We’ve heard from people who feel unable to manage day-to-day life and require emotional support as a result. Others worry about how their diagnosis will impact their role and how they’re perceived.

Most troubling are the cases where people have revealed their diagnosis, only to be selected for redundancy, or for ADHDers to be treated so badly at work that they end up in a grievance process against their employer.   

None of this is acceptable. Leaders and organisations have a responsibility to support those living with the condition and to create atmospheres in which ADHDers can thrive. 

Role-modelling behaviour

Iain Preston is a renowned diversity, equity, inclusion and intersectionality campaigner and industry leader who lives with ADHD. In fact, he’s giving a Nabs talk titled “Everyday Inclusion: Understanding and building a neurodiverse workplace” on 14 May (you can register for free here).  

Speaking on the Nabs Podcast, Preston shared the importance of asking team members how they prefer to work and role-modelling this behaviour.

He said: “I would really encourage leaders to be very open to explaining to people that they can signal how they want to work. The best leaders I’ve been with have recognised those signals [from colleagues], acknowledged them and allowed them to be taken on board. 

“For example, drop into an early conversation: ‘How do you prefer to have communication with a team like ours?’ Or for someone coming into the building for the first time, ask: ‘Is there anything we can do to make it as easy as possible for you as you arrive here?’  

“It’s small things that actually build up to being a big change for people and a massive impact for everybody in and around our community.” 

Open conversations

Another example might be challenges arising from remote working. As we uncovered in our research All Ears, remote and hybrid working creates both tension and opportunity. 

Back-to-back video calls and blurred boundaries can add pressure to mental wellness, although home working means more flexibility and a more manageable home life for many. Take the time to ask what they need to flourish in both remote and office settings. 

Each person experiences ADHD in their own unique way and, accordingly, requires bespoke support. As we found in All Ears, people are prone to making assumptions about each other, when in fact open and honest conversations are needed to facilitate mutual understanding at work. 

It’s critical to create a safe and open culture, free of judgement and full of empathy. When this is established, it’s far easier for someone to tell you what they need, as well as for you to ask how you can help. Nabs’ Inclusive Leader training can give you the essential insights needed to establish this positive culture. 

Working together

Discussing and co-creating support structures need to be thought of as a partnership between employer and employee. The solutions proposed need to work for both — but with solutions often as simple as those outlined by Preston above, there shouldn’t be any problems. 

ADHDers who are mistreated, unsupported or misunderstood can suffer mental wellness challenges including stress and anxiety. Those who have particularly bad experiences in our industry may leave it altogether.  

Let’s turn this situation around. We need to keep hold of these talented people and empower them to thrive. Let’s work to understand those with ADHD, so that we can give them the support they need to stay with us and fulfil their true potential.  

Learn more about supporting those with ADHD at “Nabs Explore: Working with ADHD strengths, strategies and support” on 29 May, led by ADHD coach Charlotte Forbes. Register for your free place here.

Katrina Urban is head of learning and development at Nabs

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