How Leaders Can Assist ADHD Employees in Succeeding at Remote Work

Estimated read time 8 min read

Employees with ADHD are falling behind in the remote work debate, but you can meet their needs with a few effective strategies. Consider entering a maze with winding paths, hidden pitfalls, and the tantalizing lure of success just around the corner. That’s the business landscape for you. Consider riding a unicycle through the same maze. The paths become more difficult, the pitfalls become gaping chasms, and the goal appears to be miles away. This, my friends, is the daily struggle that employees with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) face.

Skynova’s recent survey, which looked at the challenges and triumphs of 1,008 workers with ADHD, sheds some light on the subject. The survey is like a powerful flashlight, illuminating dark corners and detailing how these workers are faring, especially in the uncharted territory of remote work.

The perilous dial: Remote work raises the stakes for workers with ADHD. Consider an individual with ADHD’s daily work life to be a boxing match. Every punch, dodge, and round won or lost represents a new challenge or victory. Introduce remote work into the picture now. It’s like giving your opponent an extra glove. According to the same Skynova study, remote workers with ADHD find their daily tasks 17% more difficult than their on-site counterparts. The challenge has evolved into a tag-team wrestling match with hidden opponents and unexpected tactics, rather than a straightforward match.

However, the plot thickens further, similar to a detective novel with a surprising twist. Remote workers with ADHD are 54% more likely than their on-site colleagues to struggle with impulse control. For these people, the allure of distractions is akin to a child let loose in a candy store, with all the goodies in the world at their fingertips. The task is sticky, requiring the tenacity of bubble gum on a hot sidewalk.

So, what’s the secret ingredient in creating an ADHD-friendly workplace? The answer is as simple and delectable as a dollop of whipped cream on top of your hot chocolate: flexible schedules. Consider a night owl, who is not bound by the traditional 9 to 5 schedule and is free to spread its wings when it is most alert and productive. This is the allure of flexible schedules, which have been chosen by 64% of employees with ADHD as their top benefit for how workplaces can help those with ADHD.

Thus, remote work, ironically, correlates with more challenges in daily tasks for those with ADHD while also serving as a solution by providing greater flexibility. Given that nearly two-thirds of those with ADHD rank flexibility as the most important benefit of addressing ADHD at work, it appears that the benefits of remote work outweigh the costs.

Indeed, when I help my clients with the return to office transition and flexible hybrid work policies, I find that those with ADHD, fatigue, brain fog, and a variety of other conditions express a stronger preference for more flexibility in schedule and place of work than those who do not have such conditions. However, Skynova’s survey raises an issue I hadn’t considered thoroughly: whether people with certain conditions, such as ADHD, might benefit from more help with impulse control issues.

The bright side: Career growth and ADHDADHD may appear to be an impediment, but Skynova’s survey shows that it is not a career killer. Consider yourself stuck in rush-hour traffic — congested, slow, but not immobilized. Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

Despite their ADHD, many hybrid (74%) and on-site (68%) workers say they have advanced in their careers. Despite the rocky soil, it’s like watching a small sapling grow into a mighty tree. Meanwhile, 61% of their remote counterparts agree, albeit with a slightly lower frequency. The numbers tell a compelling story, much like a good book. A whopping 58% of employees with ADHD are happy with their job choices. They are the satisfied diners at a restaurant, full and satisfied with the meal of career options served to them.

The balancing act: Creating a welcoming environment for employees with ADHD It is now time to focus on the corporate maestros — the organizations. The image shows a mixed bag of popcorn in flavors ranging from savory to unsavory. On the plus side, four out of ten workers with ADHD sing in unison, claiming that their company or manager strikes the right note in terms of providing a supportive environment.

Surprisingly, despite the juggling act, two-thirds of these corporate tightrope walkers believe they have advanced in their careers. It demonstrates their tenacity and determination. However, 39% say their ADHD has acted like an overly cautious GPS, limiting their journey by suggesting safer, albeit longer and less rewarding, routes. In some cases, ADHD feels like a looming mountain rather than a mere impediment. Over a quarter of workers with ADHD have experienced layoffs, with 21% suspecting that their ADHD was a factor. It’s like being penalized for a snowstorm because you forgot your snow boots.

Cognitive biases: The ADHD narrative’s unseen puppeteers Just as a marionette is controlled by its puppeteer’s invisible strings, our perceptions and decisions about ADHD and remote work are frequently influenced by cognitive biases. These cognitive biases, like an autocorrect feature that sometimes corrects us incorrectly, can distort our understanding and influence our decisions.

Confirmation bias is similar to a picky eater at a buffet, selecting only the foods it enjoys and ignoring the rest. This cognitive bias causes us to favor information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs while dismissing data that contradicts them. In the context of ADHD and remote work, confirmation bias may cause us to focus solely on the difficulties that people with ADHD face. We may be more inclined to regard ADHD as a barrier if we only consider the 17% increase in daily challenges for remote workers with ADHD. We may overlook the part of the Skynova study that shows that a sizable percentage of workers with ADHD (65%) have managed to advance in their careers despite their difficulties.

Or that 64% prefer flexibility as the most effective way for businesses to assist people with ADHD. It’s like ignoring the spectacular dessert section of the buffet because we’re too preoccupied with the sushi bar. Managers and coworkers may also fall victim to confirmation bias in the workplace, viewing the actions of employees with ADHD through the lens of preconceived notions. An employee with ADHD, for example, who forgets a deadline may be perceived as “irresponsible,” reinforcing negative stereotypes about ADHD. We overlook the unique strengths and potential that these individuals bring to the table by doing so.

The empathy gap is analogous to standing on the rim of a deep canyon, unable to cross because we cannot bridge the divide. This bias refers to our difficulty understanding the experiences of others, especially when they differ significantly from our own. The empathy gap can lead to a lack of understanding and support for colleagues with ADHD in the world of remote work. People who do not have ADHD, for example, may be perplexed as to why a remote environment presents additional challenges for their ADHD colleagues. It’s like trying to comprehend someone’s fear of heights when you’ve never climbed higher than a step stool.

They may be unaware of their remote colleagues with ADHD’s increased struggle with impulse control. As a result, they may unintentionally make decisions or make judgments that aggravate these challenges. For example, a manager may schedule back-to-back virtual meetings without considering the difficulties this may pose for an employee with ADHD, who may require short breaks between tasks for optimal focus and productivity. Indeed, employers encouraging breaks when needed was named by 44% of survey respondents as the second most-mentioned benefit after flexible schedules helpful for addressing problems for those with ADHD.

To counteract these cognitive biases, it is critical to foster an environment of open conversation and ADHD education. Understanding our biases, like holding a mirror up to our thoughts, is the first step toward making our decisions and actions more inclusive and supportive of all workers, whether they are navigating the corporate labyrinth from an office cubicle or a home desk.

Conclusion: A plea for adaptation and comprehension To summarize, navigating remote work with ADHD is like attempting to solve a Rubik’s Cube while riding a roller coaster — thrilling, challenging, and not for the faint of heart. However, with the right changes, such as flexible schedules, the roller coaster can be transformed into a scenic train ride — still thrilling, but now manageable and even enjoyable.

A physical or virtual office should not resemble a battleground where survival is the only goal. It should instead be a sandbox where everyone can play, build, and thrive. So, let’s clear the way and fill the sandbox with tools and toys that will allow everyone to build their best sandcastles. After all, a castle is most impressive when it is constructed by many hands.

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