Supporting and appreciating staff with ADHD

Written by B.J. Woodstein, PhD

Is ADHD a problem for the workplace? Or is it in fact an advantage, particularly if the employee with ADHD is properly supported? We’re going to strongly argue for the latter, even while acknowledging that it is true that this form of neurodivergence can of course be a struggle to handle at times.

A recent article in the BBC told the story of a person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who has faced a number of challenging situations because of her neurodevelopmental difference. For example, she didn’t properly read the terms and conditions of a new credit card and ended up with lots of extra, unnecessary fees. And she also missed a flight due to not seeing the correct departure time on her boarding card. Other examples in the article were about people losing glasses, losing house keys, impulsively buying unneeded products and then not returning them even though they didn’t really want them, or struggling with budgeting. All of these situations can affect the workplace as well as impacting people on a personal and emotional level. For instance, that flight missed was for a work role, and someone losing keys or other supplies, or making unexpected purchases can cost a workplace significant sums of money along with increasing stress levels. And those who experience problems like this may beat themselves up or worry about how they are perceived by their colleagues.

For this reason, managers need to understand how to best support colleagues with ADHD. But it is also important for them to not view ADHD as a burden or an annoyance; instead, they need to remember how amazing the particular traits and skills that ADHD brings with it. Often, when people think of ADHD, they immediately use terms such as impulsive, inattentive, distractible, hyper, unfocused, and other negative phrases. And sometimes people with ADHD do struggle with some of those behaviours. But if you look at the other side of the coin, as it were, we could instead use phrases such as creative, hyper-focussed, energetic, enthusiast, multitasking, and problem-solving. It’s the same person, with the same type of neurodivergence, but rather than criticise them for being easily distracted, we could consider how much energy they have and how interested they are in the world. The world is such an exciting place, no wonder they want to shift gears regularly and to swiftly move from one topic to another.

It has even been posited that humans evolved as we did thanks in large part to ADHD. The thinking goes that it was those restless, impulsive people who we would now call ADHDers who moved out of Africa and went on to discover and adapt to other parts of the world. That is to say, that they weren’t satisfied with the status quo and so they pressed for change and exploration. In fact, there is some suggestion that genes related to ADHD are more common in regions of the world that were settled later, such as South America, which would imply that it was ADHDers who kept pushing to move and to discover new places and new ways of living.


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October is ADHD Awareness Month

ADHD is one of the most common mental health conditions affecting children and adults. But it is often misunderstood. ADHD Awareness Month’s goal is to correct these misunderstandings and highlight the shared experiences of the ADHD community.

What is ADHD?

Approximately 4% of adults have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). There are three types:


Our Research Associate Jeremy Lyons is proud to be part of that community. He revels in overcoming barriers having been presented to him, in primarily navigating unforgiving spaces with ADHD and dyslexia. One in three from the community have both ‘comorbid conditions’ and are six times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness. In addition:

  1. depression, often due to executive dysfunction impairs key parts of work, education or home life
  2. generalised anxiety happens often due to excessive worry, which partially combats inattentiveness
  3. social anxiety, often when ADHD traits like impulsivity, inattention and different thinking styles impair social functioning
  4. OCD-like cycles, often since fixations and excessive checking partially combats inattentiveness and disorganisation

The above does not account for many others who struggle without any recognised diagnosis and therefore no support. Unlike physical challenges, ADHD isn’t visible, so individuals with ADHD often feel unsupported, unwanted, and misunderstood. From the child at school struggling to keep up with the rest of their friends, to the office worker feeling like they don’t belong.

In an interview on the Time to Talk podcast about student mental health, Jeremy Lyons spoke of his experiences overcoming the challenges he faced at school as a result of his neurodiversity being dismissed as just an ‘excuse’. “I remember for GCSE English I was bottom of set 7, a teacher even told me my work looked like it had been written by a foreign child. So I decided to learn the same way as the students for whom English was a foreign language and write down any words I could not understand in a separate book. When it came to the exam, I watched the film of our book instead of struggling to read it and that same teacher had to ask if the school could use my paper to teach as I scored an A* in literature and an A in language.”

This experience taught Jeremy that thinking differently can be exactly what sets you apart from the rest. This really became apparent when he was able to get a diagnosis for Dyslexia and ADHD, as now he has the key to further understand his difference and the ability to empower others to do the same. He now has two master’s degrees and continues to raise awareness acting as an advocate and trainer. Showing work emphasizes the importance of understanding neurodiversity, which cannot only prevent poor mental health but also bring out hidden strengths within our workforce.

The main challenge for someone with ADHD carrying out tasks that rely on executive functions relate to:

● Memory

● Organisational Skills

● Time Management

● Managing Stress

● Concentration

● Listening & Taking Notes

These challenges often lead to discrimination, low productivity and absenteeism, however we suggest the following tips you can take to help support in these areas:

Work outcomes broken up into clear SMART goals

  • Structure and accountability
  • Concentration breaks
  • Flexible working (remote, hybrid options)
  • Medication
  • Therapy

It is equally important to empower ADHD-ers to utilise their strengths such as;

  • Hyperfocus productivity
  • Crisis management
  • Creativity
  • Conversational skills and empathy
  • Problem-solving
  • Passion and enthusiasm



At PILAA we carry out neurodiversity impact assessments for organisations. If interested in learning more about what this entails, in order to create a more inclusive environment for neurodivergent employees, please get in touch with us!