Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also known as attention deficit disorder, has several symptoms that can pose challenges in various aspects of a person’s life, including personal relationships, home management, and work performance. Some of the ways ADHD affects things such as work are more pronounced than others; but in any case, being aware of the potential obstacles and knowing how to mitigate them is key.
In this article, we’re going to look at how adult ADHD affecting work performance can happen, and how you can work to overcome and minimise some of the issues that may arise as a consequence.
Poor time management
You might find it hard to keep track of time, meaning you’re often late to work, meetings, or with deadlines. It’s common for adults with ADHD to struggle with time management skills, and this can create challenges when you’re looking to move up the career ladder or make a good impression at a new job.
Lack of organisation
Keeping organised and being able to prioritise tasks might be difficult, resulting in tasks getting missed, work not being completed as expected, or being unable to create a proper handover for colleagues when needed. This can also result in difficulty managing complex projects that have lots of working elements.
Staying focussed on one task at a time can be hard for people with ADHD. You might find that you start something and get easily distracted halfway through, meaning you abandon the original task in pursuit of something else. This can see the output and overall quality of your work reduce, and it can make it seem like certain careers are out of reach for people with ADHD, when this is not the case at all – it’s just that the right guidance might be needed, in order to make the best choices.
When sitting in long meetings or undertaking a task that requires a lot of attention, you might zone out or struggle to stay on-topic. This can, sometimes, give other people a negative opinion of you: for example, they may think you’re lazy or rude, even if your job performance is good and you are actually trying your hardest.
Strained professional relationships
Taking the above issues into account, you might find that your co-workers get annoyed with you or seem not to understand you, leading to strained relationships with those you work with. Poor communication skills and trouble verbalising your struggles can compound this.
These are just some of the common issues people living with ADHD often face at work, but there are wider implications on your own mental health and self-esteem, too. If you feel like your colleagues disapprove of you or have negative opinions of you, your confidence can take a tumble, resulting in increased anxiety which can also hamper your performance and affect your overall mood.
Untreated ADHD at work
It’s thought that around 75% of adults who have ADHD are undiagnosed, and therefore untreated. This in itself can cause issues, but there is specific research that surrounds the risks and challenges associated with untreated ADHD at work, highlighting how difficult it can be.
22 days of lost productivity
According to the World Health Organisation, people with untreated ADHD lose around 22 days in productivity on average every year.
It has been reported that adults with ADHD are around 60% more likely to be fired, 30% more likely to have ongoing/chronic employment issues, and 3 times more likely to quit on impulse*. This can cause anxiety around employment stability, and frequent job changes can have a knock-on effect on quality of life and your ability to confidently maintain your standard of living.
Research shows that around 24% of working adults who are on sick leave for the long term due to stress exhibit symptoms of ADHD*, meaning there could be a link between working people with ADHD and stress-related illnesses.
Overcoming ADHD issues at work
It’s clear that for some people with ADHD, it can cause a lot of issues and stresses at work, making it imperative to understand how to deal with issues when they arise and how to minimise the fallout should the worst happen.
Medication can be prescribed by a GP to help manage focus and impulsivity, but there are a number of other techniques and coping skills that can be introduced to mitigate the impact ADHD can have on your work.
Set reminders and alarms
The first thing you can do as a person with ADHD is to set consistent reminders and alarms, often before you need to leave so that you’re still on time, even if you run past your alarm. Many people with ADHD struggle with time management due to being easily distracted and acting on impulse, so even if they get up bright and early, they might still be late. This can cause issues at work and result in missing meetings or being reprimanded for tardiness.
As mentioned, setting an alarm to wake up, then another one when you need to leave is a good way to keep on track. Setting reminders a few days before a project is due can also instil a sense of urgency and help to bring you out of procrastination, ensuring you don’t miss deadlines.
Find a quiet place to work
Inattention is one of the biggest problems for adults with ADHD, especially in the workplace when there is time-sensitive work to be done. As someone with ADHD, you might find that you have lots of thoughts all at once and struggle to block them out so you can focus on the task at hand. This could mean you leave a task halfway through to do something else, or end up distracting other people as you move between tasks and need input from others.
If your workplace has somewhere quiet where you can work, like a private office, it might be a good idea to ask if you can go there. There are less distractions in a solo meeting room as opposed to in an open-plan office room, meaning you might find it easier to focus on what you’re doing and not get distracted by other people or the things going on in the wider office. It’s important not to feel isolated, but if you know you have a pressing deadline or you feel like you’re not making much progress, having the option to remove yourself and sit in another room can help.
If you work from home, try and leave your phone in one room whilst you work in another, and listen to things like white or brown noise or classical music if it helps you hone your focus.
Make realistic lists
Organisation isn’t necessarily a strong suit for many people with ADHD, and even people without ADHD often struggle to get in the zone and keep things organised. Lists are a big help, especially in the workplace. Make a note of your daily tasks like checking emails and listening to voicemail messages, and set aside time to do these, in intervals if that makes it easier (e.g., respond to emails every three hours, dedicating 30 minutes each time to ease the overwhelming feeling of replying to them all in one go).
Next, add some things you’d like to complete each day, highlighting their urgency. It’s important not to overstretch yourself. A lot of people go wrong here by assigning themselves too much to do, and they feel disappointed when they can’t do it all. Make sure to keep it realistic. It’s not always easy to accurately make time estimations with ADHD, so always allot yourself more time than you initially think you’ll need and factor this into your list.
Speak to your employer/colleagues
A lot of the problems people with ADHD face at work is through stigma borne out of a lack of education. You could find that it’s beneficial to speak to your employer about your ADHD openly and see if you can run a meeting with your colleagues to discuss some of the obstacles you face and how they might be able to help you. This might seem daunting, and you might have questions about if your employer will keep you on if they know you have ADHD.
Legally, your employer has an obligation to attempt to offer accommodations to support you before they make a decision to fire you. However, if you don’t disclose your ADHD and your employer starts to notice things like missed deadlines and tardiness without an explanation, they may fire you for poor performance. It’s best to be upfront about your condition so that you can get the support you need to succeed. This can also foster a more accommodating work environment.
Remember the benefits of ADHD
ADHD can present challenges, but it has benefits, too, and it’s important to remind yourself of these. Your impulse to try something new can allow for creativity and encourage you to think outside the box. You may have unique insights that no one else thought of, which can lead to innovation and new solutions being implemented. Try not to think of your ADHD as a barrier that’s holding you back or as something to be ashamed of; it can benefit you and even help you in the workplace if it’s nurtured properly.
Get ADHD support with The ADHD Centre
The prospect of going to work with ADHD can seem daunting, especially when you read about the stats and issues people with ADHD often face at work, but success and prosperity in your career is achievable.
At The ADHD Centre, we have a team of specialists who can help you find solutions to work around obstacles resulting from your ADHD at work. They can also help you find peace with your condition and recognise its benefits.
Moreover, we can help you get a diagnosis if you are experiencing some of the common ADHD symptoms and are struggling at work. You can learn more about our ADHD assessments here.