Idaho, Iowa, Des Moines
August 12, 2023

Tips for Managers: How to Support Your Employees With ADHD

If you’re in charge of managing multiple employees, it’s likely that at least one of them has ADHD. People with ADHD and other types of neurodivergence are intelligent, hard-working, and capable. Their brain chemistry also makes everyday tasks a challenge sometimes. They know this, and they do everything in their power to work around these particular challenges.

As an employer, you naturally want what’s best for your employees so they feel safe, content, and productive in the workplace. By learning more about ADHD brain functioning, you can also help them feel seen and understood. What’s not to love about that? As a therapist for millennials with ADHD and anxiety, I work with clients to help them understand how to better accommodate their own neurodivergence – and the neurodivergence of other people in their lives. Here are tips on how you can support your ADHD employees at work. 

Employees with ADHD

Tips on Supporting Your ADHD Employees

  1. Learn about ADHD

If you don’t know much about ADHD, take some time to learn about it. There are plenty of useful resources out there to help you be more informed. You can learn a lot by simply browsing credible internet sites and reading blogs from people who focus on ADHD (like me). Or you may even be able to get involved with local employer support groups in your community.

The more you learn about ADHD, the better you can support your employees who live with it. Here are a few things you might not know about your neurodivergent employees.

  1. Laziness? No – different brain chemistry. Your ADHD employees have likely been told throughout their lives they’re lazy and scatterbrained. But this isn’t true. Their brains just work differently. People with ADHD are more likely to procrastinate and struggle with productivity due to anxiety and executive dysfunction, but they also take their job duties seriously and want to succeed. Don’t perpetuate the myth that they’re lazy by making snide comments or being passive aggressive with them. This will only deteriorate their ability to function and make them feel uncomfortable at work. 
  1. ADHD folks need more dopamine than neurotypical people. This can look like needing to change their work environment regularly, needing lots of breaks, wanting dynamic and exciting new projects to sink their teeth into, and desiring flexibility in their schedules. Helping them be engaged and have fun at work– rather than bored – will go a long way in keeping them content. Your ADHD employees will be much happier and more productive if you work with their need for dopamine instead of fight against it. 
  1. Recognize hyperfixation. Hyperfixation is a phenomenon that many people with ADHD experience where they get wholly sucked into something new and interesting. This can be beneficial sometimes – ADHDers can be great at researching a new interest. But hyperfixation isn’t always helpful. It can keep them from appropriately managing their time, and it may cause stress, sleep deprivation, and even burnout
  1. Time blindness is real. People with ADHD struggle with time blindness. Time blindness is the struggle to be on time, set aside enough time for important tasks, and organize time and activities accurately in your brain. It’s caused by different executive functioning in the brain. You can support your ADHD workers by doing things like being flexible with time and helping them set up a timer app or an alarm to accomplish tasks. And know this: if they perpetually run late, they’re not purposely trying to be disrespectful. 

2. Flexibility is key

One of the most supportive things you as an employer can do is offer flexible timing and scheduling. Whenever possible, consider implementing as much flexibility as your employees’ jobs allow. Flexibility is incredibly helpful for people with ADHD, anxiety, and more. Everyone is different in their needs and desires for scheduling. The best way to figure out what works well for your employees is to ask them and give them room to switch it up when they need to. 

There are multiple ways you can offer your employees more flexibility. One is a flexible work environment. Although some folks with ADHD struggle to work from home, others may crave it. A hybrid or work-from-home optional workplace can help your ADHD employees feel less bored. It might help them to do things like go to different coffee shops or utilize coworking groups to get the job done and feel productive. 

Another way to offer flexibility is through variable work hours. ADHD can disrupt sleep, and neurodivergent folks may not function well in the early morning or late afternoon. Let them set their own schedules to reflect the times they feel their best.

3. Be clear in your expectations

Clarity with your ADHD employees goes a long way in helping them stay on track. One way to do this is to offer written instructions for projects whenever possible. This helps ensure they can come back and complete things on their own timeline without letting anything fall through the cracks.

Another way to offer clarity is to break bigger deadlines or projects into smaller, short-term goals. Having a big-picture goal can be overwhelming to folks with ADHD, and having more manageable tasks to complete can help them feel accomplished and on track. 

4. Have regular check-ins

You don’t need me to tell you that every individual is different with different needs. You may have multiple employees with ADHD who all require different means of support. The best way to understand your employees is to check in with them and ask them what’s working, what’s not working, and what, if anything, they’d like to do differently. You can also use this time to offer them feedback, ask questions, and make requests. Opening up a regular line of communication can build trust and rapport between the two of you – and improve their mental health. 

Therapy and Coaching Can Help You Support Your Employees With ADHD

Managing employees is a lot of work. It takes time, effort, and skills to learn how to become a good boss. If you want support in becoming the most effective, caring manager you can be – while also taking the best care of your own wellbeing – I'm here to help. Together we can help you figure out how to expand your knowledge and be a strong support system for all your employees, including those with ADHD. 

I’m ready if you are. Reach out today to get started.

Meet the author

Danielle Wayne

Danielle is an anxiety therapist and perfectionism coach. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.

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