Last month’s Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness push comes at a time when the condition is front-and-center, given rising rates of diagnosis, widespread medication shortages, and even viral TikTok videos. While ADHD presents a challenge for professionals and businesses, there’s also an opportunity to jumpstart inclusion and neurodiversity efforts, improve talent management, and seize a competitive advantage by empowering these employees.
With the right strategy, leaders can tap into the immense potential of people with ADHD, for the benefit of both the organization and employee well-being. Such a strategy is vital given that awareness of ADHD is growing, particularly in underdiagnosed communities such as women and people of color. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates lifetime prevalence of ADHD in U.S. adults at 8.1%, representing a significant share of the workforce.
ADHD manifests differently for each person, but behavioral symptoms are typically characterized into three categories: inattentive, hyperactive, and combination. At work, behavioral symptoms contribute to struggles with sustained focus, distractibility, impulsivity, time management, procrastination, memory, and difficulty in managing long-term projects.
However, employees with ADHD can also make unique contributions. These employees bring enhanced creativity and innovation, higher levels of empathy, superior problem-solving skills, excellent social skills, and can be exceptionally productive when stimulated or hyper-focused. The key is designing workplace programs and strategies that help employees to capitalize on these strengths for their teams, colleagues, and companies.
Given high prevalence and under-appreciated skills, employees with ADHD are an important population to include in neurodiversity initiatives. Organizations that play to these strengths can realize benefits for their talent pool, competitive edge, and ultimately their bottom line. Research from Accenture finds companies that champion neurodiversity and disability inclusion benefit from 28% higher revenue and 30% better performance on profit margins.
Encouraging and valuing neurodiverse contributions requires a strategic focus. The following areas can guide action on ADHD inclusion in the workplace:
Workplace Accommodations: People with ADHD are entitled to reasonable workplace accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means structuring work in a way that values people’s agency of how, when, and where they get their best work done. For people with ADHD, relatively small, simple modifications to the job and working environment can support improved productivity, such as offering quiet workspaces, short intermittent breaks, written directions, and altered work hours to accommodate peak periods of focus and attention.
Mental Health Support: ADHD responds well to integrated pharmacological and psychotherapeutic intervention. As part of overall workplace mental health efforts, organizations should make it clear that they support help-seeking and care for all employees, including those with ADHD. Employees can then find and work with their healthcare provider to develop an effective treatment plan.
Refer to Resources: Employees can access available Employee Assistance Programs and Employee Resource Groups to find support and resources. For example, the Job Accommodation Network also curates resources for ADHD accommodation, publications, articles, and blog posts.
Neurodiverse individuals with ADHD can be powerful contributors when work and the workplace align with their strengths. Awareness about the unique challenges and opportunities for employees with ADHD is growing, and businesses can benefit from an inclusive, neurodiverse effort that empowers those living with ADHD.
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