How to support a colleague with ADHD
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a behavioural disorder that includes symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. It tends to be noticed when people are fairly young, such as when children start school, and is most often diagnosed between the ages of 6 and 12. Symptoms usually improve with age but many people often experience difficulties into adulthood.
Those with ADHD have many strengths that could prove to be of great benefit and value to any workplace, such as the ability to hyperfocus, willingness to take risks, be spontaneous and flexible to name but a few. When properly supported, these talents allow them to shine. So how can you help to support a colleague with ADHD at work?
Some of the easiest ways to help a colleague with ADHD is to make simple changes to their working environment to help them minimise distractions. These often don’t cost anything but can make all the difference. Allowing the use of clearly visible clocks or alarms, sticky notes, reminders or even the use of larger monitor screens often helps as it allows he person to see everything they have to do so that nothing is forgotten, and they don’t remain stuck on one task for too long.
As those with ADHD can have extreme difficulty concentrating it is important to help them minimise distraction in any way you can. Often the greatest source of distraction is from noise in the office, phones going off, people talking etc. Allowing the person to wear earplugs or headphones can help them reduce the background noise and thus the distraction. It can also help if you allow them to sit in a more quiet part of the office, or make them aware of quiet places such as meeting rooms that they can use to work when they need somewhere more quiet and distraction free.
It’s also important to evaluate your working practices. If your colleague feels it would help them, you can offer increased supervision, agreeing to more frequent check ins or planning and progress meetings to help keep them on track. It may also help them if you break large tasks into chunks, as many people with ADHD find that they are more motivated by smaller shorter deadlines, rather than longer term ones. If they feel it would help you can also organise a buddy system so that they have someone who can check in with them in a less formal manner than regular meetings.
As most people with ADHD struggle to maintain concentration for long periods of time, it’s also important to factor in frequent breaks for them as otherwise their productivity may suffer. If there is a long meeting planned then schedule in breaks throughout, as well as allowing frequent breaks during the day so that they can get up and move around as needed.
There are many pieces of software that can help those with neurodiversities, ADHD included. These range from simple apps for one’s phone, to sophisticated pieces of software for their computer. To Do lists and scheduling apps may prove useful to help people remember what it is that they need to do and make sure that nothing is forgotten, as well as aids for reading and writing if those are an issue for some. If they concentrate better listening than reading for example, then a text to speech programme can help them stay focused when reading emails .
Another piece of software that many find useful are blockers. These can be used on one’s computer, phone or tablet to block messages, social media, internet etc so that they can avoid temptation and distraction when working.
The key to helping any employee is to talk to them and more importantly, listen. Listening to the is the only way in which you will be able to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how best you will be able to help them. After all, they know themselves best, and are the best person to point you in the right direction of how to support them.