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Telling About ADD at Work?


Updated August 13, 2009

Question: Telling About ADD at Work?
"I just started a new job and I am already experiencing some problems. Should I carry on letting others think what they want or should I tell people that I have ADHD?"

It can be a very personal choice as to whether you share about your ADHD. It also depends on your own situation and whether or not those who you tell will be supportive and helpful in knowing or whether they will be judgmental and unhelpful. There is still a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation out there about ADHD, so if you chose to tell you may want to take some time to educate that person about adult ADHD.

Start By Addressing the Specific Challenges

If there are specific issues that are making life more challenging for you, you may just want to share that initially. For example, if you tend to be forgetful and your supervisor has just stopped you in a loud and distracting hallway and given you of list of things he wants you to have prepared before the next Board meeting, you might simply ask if he would mind sending you the list through email. Explain that you work best with this visual information and you want to make sure you get everything taken care of in an efficient and thorough manner.

Another option is to ask the supervisor if you could meet in a quieter office away from the distractions to discuss, prioritize and jot down the list of things-to-do. Some people do well with tape recording information in longer meetings, so if you find this is helpful you could request permission to use a recorder to help if you do tune out or become distracted. This way you won’t miss important information. When you make this extra effort to get modifications in place that help you to work better, you will be so much more successful and you will demonstrate to others that you are working to improve those areas that are more challenging for you.

Modify Your Work Environment for Success

You may also want to think about other accommodations that will help you in your new job. For those that require permission from your supervisor, you can simply explain that these ways of structuring your work day make you even more productive. This demonstrates that you are trying to be proactive and a productive member of the team. Think about what areas of work are most challenging for you? Brainstorm solutions that will help you be more successful? An ADHD coach can be a great resource and support in this process.

ADHD is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, so if you feel you need to disclose about your ADHD in order to protect yourself and get appropriate accommodations in place, you will want to discuss this with your supervisor.

Talk With Your Doctor

Don’t forget to address these difficulties with your doctor, as well. Together you and your doctor can sort out whether or not changes in your medical treatment plan would be helpful.

Helpful Work Accommodations

  1. Break larger assignments down into smaller more manageable (less overwhelming) tasks.

  2. Give yourself small rewards and kudos for completing these smaller tasks, as you progress towards getting the whole assignment completed. Treat yourself to another reward when the whole assignment is successfully completed.

  3. Schedule in uninterrupted blocks of time during the day to work on tasks. For many people the morning hours are best for focus. During these time blocks, close down your email and instant text messages and set your phone to go to automatic voice mail so it doesn’t distract or derail you. Have a set time in the day to check messages. Write down all messages immediately after hearing or reading them.

  4. Keep a compact pad of paper or journal with you during the day. If you are working on a project and get distracted by a new thought, jot that thought down immediately, then consciously refocus yourself on the task you were working on. Go back to the distracting thought at a later time.

  5. Tasks that are tedious and repetitive can be really difficult to maintain focus on for very long. If you find that intervening thoughts become too distracting, try working on a particular task for shorter intervals. Set a timer to work for this specific amount of time on the task, then take a break.

  6. Set your watch or other timer to beep at 15 to 20 minute intervals to remind you to get back on track.

  7. Try to streamline or minimize paperwork as much as possible. Develop a filing system that is simple and consciously use it.

  8. If morning hours are more productive for you in terms of focus and energy, get into work early so you can work when the environment it is less hectic, busy, and distracting. If flex time allows you to be more productive, discuss this option with your supervisor.

  9. Give yourself frequent breaks during the day to recharge and allow for physical movement. Plan in regular bathroom breaks, walk to the kitchen area to get a bottle of water, head upstairs to drop off paperwork, etc. Bring a healthy lunch from home so you can spend most of your lunch hour exercising. Get outside, breathe in fresh air and take an invigorating run or walk.

  10. Avoid over-scheduling your day. Schedule in extra time in case work assignments or meetings take longer than expected.

  11. Avoid impulsively over committing to too many things at work by consciously making the effort not to automatically say “yes.” Instead let others know you need to check your schedule and get back to them.

  12. Use a day planner - whether it be paper and pencil or electronic. Chose whatever type you will be most likely to use on a regular basis. Keep all important info in this one planner and carry it with you at all times.

  13. Use white noise, earplugs, earphones with soothing sounds to block out the distracting work sounds.

  14. Request a work area that is free from distractions.

  15. Designate spots for important work items and consciously make an effort to return items to their designated spots so you can find them when needed. Get rid of clutter in your work area.

  16. Set your watch to beep at 10 and then again at 5 minutes before a meeting so you'll remember the meeting and also have time after the first beep to transition and quickly wrap up what you are doing.

  17. If you tend to get antsy in meetings, hold something in your hands to keep them busy, take notes on a pad of paper, flex your toes in your shoes, chew gum, etc.

  18. Meet with you supervisor regularly. Ask for constructive feedback. Get help from him in prioritizing work tasks.

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