How entrepreneurs can spot – and support – ADHD employees

Employees with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can be a brilliant asset to entrepreneurs. The neurodevelopmental condition has been scientifically linked with traits including out-of-the-box thinking, resilience, and the ability to hyper-focus, which can be harnessed in the right environment.

How entrepreneurs can spot – and support – ADHD employees

However, the reason it’s called a ‘Disorder’ is that it’s diagnosed after a person’s life is significantly negatively impacted by symptoms of inattention, impulsivity and/or hyperactivity. ADHD is not a personality trait, but can actually be a disability, triggering important legal duties for employers to ensure they are protected from discrimination at work.

As waiting lists for assessments are impossibly long and private routes are painfully expensive, here’s how entrepreneurs can spot and support employees with ADHD right now:

Understand ADHD

People with ADHD are 300% more likely to start their own businesses. As an entrepreneur, signs of ADHD such as being very energetic and constantly ‘on the go’ with physical and/or mental hyperactivity, may seem familiar.

However, taking the time to ensure you and your employees all properly understand what ADHD is enables everybody to reach their full potential at work. It’s very common for people with ADHD to avoid disclosing this at work, given the stigma surrounding the condition, so holding awareness and education building events in the workplace helps to break this down and encourage conversations at work.

Having expert speakers with lived experience train the organisation in ADHD means everybody can learn together what ADHD actually means in ‘real life’. In addition to this, training can break down terms like disability, neurodiversity, and how symptoms may show up at work and strategies that could help.

2. Support ADHD

Entrepreneurs can ensure there are clear and accessible policies in place at work covering neurodiversity, disability, and reasonable adjustments such as this one, to ensure everybody who needs support can access it.

These can cover how to speak about conditions like ADHD at work (including whilst waiting for an assessment), what happens next, and how to access support. Even when someone is diagnosed with the condition, they rarely know what help they need. If you’ve met one person with ADHD, you’ve met one person with ADHD: it’s highly situational and can appear very differently in different people.

Having processes in place to help establish the most effective strategies for support, or relationships with experts who can help facilitate collaborative and curious conversations, is key to ensuring employees with ADHD are supported at work.

As an organisation, training managers on these policies is key to ensuring they can feel confident effectively supporting their employees who may be showing signs of struggling and signpost them to further support.

3. Harness ADHD 

If a house plant was struggling to grow, we’d experiment with changes such as giving it more or less light or water. Once it’s in the right place, it can flourish.

It’s the same for ADHD: taking a compassionate approach to supporting people with it at work can result in extraordinary success. People with ADHD can hyper-focus, doing a huge amount of work in a very short period of time, and are ‘ideas machines’, brimming with creativity and solutions. By setting working environments up for success, entrepreneurs can harness these strengths across the company.

Ultimately, ADHD can be an entrepreneur’s ‘superpower’ – not just for themselves, but also for their team. Having an organisation where ADHD employees can thrive can be a little-known secret to success, allowing everybody to bring their whole selves to work.

Leanne Maskell is an ADHD Coach, the Director of coach training company ADHD Works and author of ADHD: An A to Z.

Leanne Maskell was diagnosed with ADHD at 25. But the road was far from easy – she was accused of cheating at school for getting all A’s, told by doctors she was ‘fine’ because she had a law degree, suffered from severe depression and anorexia throughout her modelling career and survived severe suicidal ideation.

Now a qualified ADHD coach and activist, Leanne is on a mission to challenge the stigma surrounding ADHD – having delivered talks to the World Health Organisation on improving global access to diagnosis and support for those with ADHD.

She founded ADHD Works, providing coaching, training and retreats for individuals and organisations – with clients like Microsoft, Yahoo and Paperchase – for ADHD-ers to understand and be empowered by their ADHD, and for companies to support and harness neurodivergence in the workplace.

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