ADHD in the Workplace

A recent infographic on edudemic.com outlined some interesting shifts in the future labour market. Generation Y—“Millennials,” those born between 1976 and 2001—occupy centre stage in the work place and bring with them a completely different mindset  then previous generations of workers. Some of the shifts are radical, and this includes projections like:

– By 2014, over 1/3 of the workforce will be millennials (i.e., born between 1976 and 2001).
– By 2020? Almost half.
– Millennials switch their attention between devices 27 times per hour, up from 17 times from previous generations
– Diversity is also on the upswing, with just under 60% of millennials white, compared to 72.5% in previous generations, and Hispanics increasing the most, from 12% to 18.5%.

People with disabilities also play a major role in diversity, but not all disabilities are visible. In fact, the great majority of disabilities, including epilepsy, mental health, dyslexia and other learning disabilities (LD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are invisible.

People often confuse LD and ADHD. The two conditions frequently co-exist and exhibit similar characteristics. Furthermore, many people living with ADHD  also live with some form of learning disability. Until recently, ADHD was more frequently diagnosed in men. In women, the disability may manifest as behaviour that appears “spacey” or daydream-like in nature.

Like many persons with learning disabilities, workers with ADHD often remain un-or-under-employed. Executive functions like planning, memory, teamwork, multitasking and organization are skills expected in today’s workplace, but many of these traits remain huge problems for workers with ADHD.

Kathleen Nadeau, editor of A Comprehensive Guide to Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults (1994) identifies a number of “crisis points” she suggests may be “typical” in the work lives of adults with ADHD. These include:

– A new position requiring tracking, prioritization, multitasking and rapid processing of detailed paperwork
– A promotion requiring supervision and management of others
– An organization is taken over by a new management team that is inflexible and detail-oriented
– Supervision which is critical, detail oriented and inflexible

The common theme running throughout these situations appears to be an “overload” reaction for the ADHD employee, where competencies in activating, sustaining, shifting attention to, remembering and finishing a task, exceed the worker’s ability to cope.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom. Many folks with ADHD, including singer Justin Timberlake, Virgin Mobile’s Richard Branson and chef Jamie Oliver have gone on to become successful, and many even flourish in their positions. Furthermore, boundless energy and incredible social skills in some ADHDers, can find them flying high in media, social work, marketing and sales, recreational, and emergency response careers. It’s true that planning and long-term follow-through can be difficult for many ADHD adults,  but some are able to respond superbly to situations calling for crisis intervention or immediate problem solving.

ACCOMMODATIONS FOR ADHD

Some employers may resist hiring people with disabilities because they think accommodations might be required and therefore too expensive. The good news is that most accommodations for ADDers are cheap. These can include:

– Providing a non-distracting work space
– Allowing opportunities to work from home or through telecommuting
– Checklists and written instructions to assist with auditory memory issues
– Removal of nonessential duties at the start of a new job
– More structure and deadlines. Two fifteen-minute meetings a week can help the employee stay on track.
– Job coach/mentor through whom all information and instructions flow
– More frequent, informal performance appraisals

Many of these accommodations are useful for people with learning disabilities as well, and these are present in about 70% of all people with ADHD. If diagnosed, they can have significant impact on work performance. However, accommodations are usually inexpensive and can significantly add to an employee’s productivity. It’s estimated that for every one dollar spent on accommodations, $29 are generated for the company. That’s a pretty good return on investment and another reason why employing people with invisible disabilities like ADHD makes good business sense.

Carter Hammett is an employment counselor with JVS Toronto’s Project GOLD and a freelance writer/editor. He is the author of Benchmarking: A Guide to Hiring and Managing Persons With Learning Disabilities and the editor of Communique, a twice-yearly magazine published by The Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario.

A note from Carter:

If you’re 18 and living in the Greater Toronto Area, have an LD/ADHD and having trouble finding or keeping work, Project GOLD may be for you. Staff, skilled in the fine arts of employment counseling job placement and coaching, can help you understand your ADHD and  learning disabilities and how this can impact your performance on the job. GOLD staff can also help you with job accommodations, disclosure of your disability and career planning. We offer resume and interview assistance, job placement, and coaching to help you keep the job once you actually find it.

And that’s one of the great things about Project GOLD: You’ll be working with people who get it, and won’t judge you for your disability. We’re conveniently located at JVS Toronto, near Dufferin and Glencairn, within easy access of TTC routes. Curious? Why not attend one of our  free weekly orientation sessions to learn more about our programs and services? Call 416.649.1619 or visit http://www.jvstoronto.org/index.php?page=learning-disabilities-centre for more information. See you soon!

Additional note from TADD (December 2, 2014): You may also be interested in these videos: The Perfect Career for ADHD and To Tell Or Not To Tell.

TotallyADD.com is an independent website created & owned by Big Brain Productions Inc. (Rick Green).  We tell you this because so many people ask if pharmaceutical companies paid for any of this and the answer is absolutely not.  Purchases in our shop, and our Patreon community pays for content creation.

6 Replies to “ADHD in the Workplace”

  1. “Typically, for every one dollar spent on accommodating an employee, about $29 is generated for the company employing them.”

    I’d be VERY interested to see how somebody arrived at that number. I don’t doubt for a second that some ADDers are huge assets to their companies, but quantifying a return on accommodation? Where’s the control?

  2. The program I am using has been successfully working at nuclear power plants and nascar personel are using it also. Take the initial investment as an increase generated for the company. Play attention is the way to go, it will not only save the company time and money it will increase the quality and quantity the company generates.

  3. Just so that we are not seen as only catering to Torontonians, if others have similar experiences anywhere with programs that are by community agencies (i.e. Not-for-profits), please post them too. If someone has an interest in what is happening here in Toronto and think that it might be applicable to your locality, ask Carter.

  4. In Manitoba, there’s ability to be in social assistance and/or go to public mental health worker in your area to be able to see if you can go into “Marketing Abilities”, (aka vocational rehabilitation), and possibly get schooling/training in your “stronger areas”. They “test” you only if you’re willing, and are thinking it is the best of times to be in it. I’m about to be “tested” in some time in Sept myself to make sure I’m going to be doing things in the type of job I accelerate in! 🙂

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