HR Supports for ADHD in the Workplace

December 2023

If you’ve identified someone in your organisation who has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it can be hard to know what to do next. How should you best support them? What are their needs in the workplace? How should you educate your wider team on this kind of condition?

Many people with ADD or ADHD might not need any additional supports at work. Many might not want to disclose their condition to their employer. But for those who do, it’s important to open a dialogue about what good support looks like for neurodiverse employees – often small, incremental changes with little cost to your company, but great potential benefit.

To start off, it’s important to answer the questions of “what is ADHD?” and “how does ADHD present?”. 

ADHD is a neurological disorder that causes the brain’s neurotransmitter chemicals; noradrenalin and dopamine; not to work properly. ADHD is often diagnosed in children, but many people receive a diagnosis in adulthood..

According to Dr. Thomas E. Brown of the Yale University School of Medicine, “ADHD is essentially a name for developmental impairment of executive function.” Executive functions are the skills involved in planning, selective attention, motivation, and impulse control – adults with ADHD can struggle in these areas, which can affect their work.

Adults with ADHD typically struggle in the following areas:

  • Organisation and prioritisation of tasks
  • Keeping focused and not getting distracted, especially when reading
  • Regulating emotions and managing stress
  • Maintaining motivation and sustained effort on a task or project
  • Short-term memory issues
  • Impulse control and self-regulation

However, it’s important to recognise that not all effects of ADHD in the workplace are negative – employees with ADHD often demonstrate unique strengths compared to their neurotypical counterparts, including:

  • Good crisis management
  • Creativity
  • Motivated by short-term deadlines/sprint cycles
  • Flexibility
  • Ability to hyperfocus on specific projects and areas
  • Willing to take risks and think outside the box
Creating a workplace that is inclusive and supportive of employees with ADHD starts with fostering the right culture. HR teams, both locally and globally, can benefit from the following strategies to help those whose ADHD is affecting their work.
One of the most helpful things a team can do to support a colleague with ADHD is be flexible when it comes to certain job functions and expectations at work. Things like start times and repetitive tasks can be hard for those with ADHD to keep up with – Consider flexible hours or delegating tasks based on employees' strengths to ensure everyone feels supported.
Similarly to those on the autism spectrum, people with ADHD often struggle with bright lights or loud noises in an office, so be mindful of this. For those with ADHD, other helpful modifications might include visual prompts like checklists or calendars, and using alarms to keep to deadlines and timeframes. 
Regular line manager check ins are important for any employee, but those with ADHD may benefit further from increased supervision. Consider a daily check-in just to update on deadlines and tasks. 
Where possible, provide clear written instructions in bullet point-form to those with ADHD – avoid verbal notes, as these can easily be forgotten or misremembered.
While it’s important for your entire team to be educated on ADHD, remember the burden that this may place on your teammate with the condition. Remember to only discuss their condition and its impact if they have confirmed they’re okay with it – and ensure that any training or information materials have been approved by them to distribute.
When it comes to international assignments, employees may require additional support. HR professionals can offer:
Offer training for employees before their international assignments to help them navigate cultural and logistical challenges.
Provide language support or access to interpreters for employees in non-English-speaking countries.
Offer relocation services and support to ease the transition for employees and their families.
Connect employees on international assignments with a global HR network for ongoing assistance.

Employers have a responsibility to support and create a conducive space for employees with ADHD. Be sure to continuously educate yourself on the topic – here are some valuable resources to begin your exploration: