Leadership Pro Tip: Help Employees With ADHD Succeed

Diagnosed cases of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder rose during the pandemic, and may have an effect on your remote employees’ productivity. Taking an active interest in their success, while offering flexibility, can help.

One of the many stories of the pandemic has been increasing rates of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Diagnoses were rising even before the pandemic, but the pressures of being stuck at home have reportedly exacerbated the problem for both children and adults.

While people with ADHD can be productive in a remote or hybrid environment, it might be worth considering how you support and lead them so they can use their skills most effectively.

What’s the Challenge?

Simply put, those who suffer from ADHD, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, find it difficult to stay focused on a specific task. Distractions can potentially wreak havoc on their productivity, and a remote environment can prove especially challenging because there are fewer external pressures in the room to stay on task—and less overall structure.

“You’ve also got one of the most addictive things in the world, your cellphone, and there’s less external pressure to put it down,” noted Allyson G. Harrison, PhD, a clinical psychology professor and clinical director at Canada’s Queen’s University, in a recent feature in the American Psychological Association’s ‌Monitor on Psychology magazine.

And with the increased number of meetings breaking up the day and a new distraction behind every web browser tab, there is a real danger that the productivity of an employee with ADHD can decline, even if they are otherwise a valuable player.

What You Can Do

In many ways, this is a role in which a leader can help to accommodate the needs of different types of employees. The Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) noted that leaders should take a close look at the needs of a specific employee, and how their symptoms may affect performance.

“Sometimes just assigning certain tasks to be completed at a specific time of day, when a symptom is at its lowest, can be enough to overcome the symptom completely,” the organization explained on its website—though it emphasized that symptoms may manifest themselves in different ways, such as an aggressive focus on perfection, rather than a lack of focus.

A recent Inc. piece noted that offering a degree of flexibility and an understanding of an employee’s work style could lead to better results, though not always.

“Of course, there’s always a limit to what’s a realistic accommodation request,” staff reporter Ben Sherry wrote. “Asking for a quiet spot to work is a lot different than asking for a personal corner office.”

ADDA added that some flexibility in hours might help improve effectiveness.

“Each individual with ADHD is different, but some may work best for a few hours late at night and then some in the afternoon, while others may simply need a schedule that is shifted earlier or later by a few hours,” the organization explained. “Only the ADHD individual will be able to identify their specific best times of operation.”

Ultimately, though, being able to assist with these issues comes down to a willingness to take an interest in your employees—and showing that you take their challenges seriously.

(FG Trade/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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