ADHD Workplace Accommodations and Strategies

By Heidi Bernhardt, RN

This list of accommodations is to be used as a reference for adults with ADHD and employers, and lists a number of potential accommodation and strategies to address specific ADHD experiences. Adults with ADHD will differ in the type and quantity of accommodations required.  A few simple strategies and accommodations can often significantly increase both job performance and job satisfaction. A process of trial and error may be required to discover the best accommodations.

Difficulties with Attention Regulation

  • Address difficult tasks during the time of day when most alert.
  • Reminder (visual or auditory) to draw person back “to task”.
  • Use of a timer to define periods of concentration on a specific task.
  • Mundane and boring tasks rotated with stimulating tasks.
  • Use of intrusive reminders (that are difficult to ignore and require attention to deactivate) for meeting and appointments.
  • Note taking for lengthy instructions.
  • Use of audio recorder during meetings.
  • Distribute tasks amongst employees with consideration of job requirements as well as individual strengths and interests (for example, delegate some of the more menial tasks to an employee who prefers detail orientation work).
  • Limit continuous e-mail checking unless required.
  • Scheduled blocks of uninterrupted time during the day where the phone is set on do not disturb and e-mail notifications are blocked
  • Manager/coworkers to provide a 5 to 10 minute warning when switching of focus required.
  • When possible, plan ahead r the time and resources for work to be reviewed for details with managers or co-worker.
  • Intrusive thoughts or ideas written down so they do not intrude on attention to task.

Distractibility

  • Flex-time to facilitate some less-distracting time at work – for example, beginning work an hour early.
  • Working at home part-time – reports and detail work may be easier to compete while uninterrupted at home.
  • Noise cancelling headsets or white noise machines.
  • Use of private offices or conference rooms for highly focused work.
  • Closing office doors.
  • Use of sound absorption panels.
  • Moving office or cubicle to lower-traffic areas.
  • Moving inboxes outside of desk space.
  • Asking employees to wear headsets when on the phone to minimize noise.
  • Use of space enclosures (cubicle walls) or face desk away from the line of traffic.
  • Make your offices available for employees who want to bring in their own professional organizer for de-cluttering or reconfiguring their work environment to minimize visual distractions and development organizational systems.

Impulsivity

  • Development of standard statements to fall back on when asked to commit to projects – “That sounds very interesting, but I need to check my schedule”: meaning: I need to discuss it with my supervisor and review what I am already committed to.
  • Note taking of thoughts and potential points to avoid interrupting or off-topic comments during meetings: this will delay the thought process and allow for reflection.
  • Partnership with a co-worker or supervisor to plan and organize larger projects: creation of a time line and list of duties allows for continued reference.
  • Implement accommodations and strategies to increase job performance and satisfaction and allow time for constructive discussion of dissatisfaction – this will increase job satisfaction and discourage impulsive quitting of jobs.

Hyperactivity

  • Tasks that encourage movement breaks – walking to meetings, picking up mail, getting coffee, walking to a co-workers desk rather than picking up the phone, using the stairs rather than the elevator.
  • Built in structured breaks that allow for movement.
  • Exercise during lunch.
  • Taking notes during meetings.
  • Use of fidget toys or stress balls for intentional fidgeting.
  • Private workspace where employee will not disturb others by tapping, humming, or fidgeting.
  • Working from home.

Time Management Impairments

  • Alerts (not easy to ignore or switch off when hyper focusing) prompting disengagement of focus to leave for appointments and meetings.
  • Divide larger assignments into more manageable tasks with staggered deadlines.
  • Use of electronic organizers.
  • Timelines and schedules developed and reviewed with team, co-worker or supervisor.
  • Use of large wall calendar with due dates and time lines.
  • Under rather than over scheduling.
  • Temptation to cram in one more activity discouraged.
  • Provide flexibility in hours and breaks, for example early arrival could mean additional time for breaks throughout the day, etc.

Organization difficulties

  • Colour-coded systems for files and projects.
  • List of daily, weekly and monthly routine tasks.
  • Use of “to do” lists that can be checked off.
  • Promote teamwork amongst coworkers, including planning meetings for projects.
  • Supervision with prioritization of tasks – scheduled bi-weekly meetings.
  • Assign new project only when previous project is complete, when possible.
  • Limited number of projects worked on at one time.
  • Gantt or flow-charts on times lines for larger projects – especially useful for team projects.
  • Additional orientation or training may be helpful for employees juggling multiple or repetitive tasks.
  • Paperwork is often impairing – minimize, streamline, automate, colour code, dictate or delegate paperwork whenever possible.
  • Remove the stigma and shame associated with accommodation requests by promoting a collaborative and supportive workplace and management style.
  • Working from home.

Forgetfulness

  • Take immediate action on tasks or immediately log tasks on calendar or note pad.
  • Check agenda at routine times a day.
  • All messages written in a binder and checked at scheduled times of the day.
  • Use or timers, alerts or beepers.
  • Follow-up of meetings or verbal instructions with an e-mail or hard copy.
  • Allow employees to use charts or cheat sheets for tasks and instructions.
  • Suggest the use of an agenda or phone calendar rather than the use of scrap or post-its.
  • Promote an environment of teamwork where employees feel that they can ask one another questions when unsure of something.

Procrastination

  • Assign tasks suited to immediate response.
  • Closer supervision – biweekly scheduled meeting with supervisor to check on progress.
  • Balance workload and type of work – for example, set up a schedule where you take a break after 30 minutes of menial work to get up and stretch for 5 minutes, or balance a menial task with creative work throughout the day.

Emotional Dysregulation and difficult relationships with co-workers

  • Feedback from a trusted supervisor, co-worker, or friend to build awareness of monologuing, interrupting, bluntness and other issues with social skills – adults with ADHD may be unaware of how they are perceived by co-workers.
  • Provide awareness and education to all employees regarding effective communication strategies among colleagues.
  • Assist employee to understand situations as other than black and white.
  • Breaks to cool down from anger or feeling overwhelmed – removal from the situation by going for a walk, coffee or lunch break, or working from home for a day or two.
  • Preparation for formal meeting with a review of performance or criticism.
  • Optional attendance at social activities.
  • Encourage all employees to model appropriate social skills.
  • Supervisory method to better fit the employee’s needs.

Potential supports for people with ADHD to seek independently

  • Use a professional organizer to assist with desk and workplace environment.
  • ADHD Coach to assist with organizational strategies.
  • ADHD Coach to teach social skills and how to pick up social cues.

*It is important to understand that information about a disability is personal and private and must be treated confidentially. Persons with disabilities are not required to disclose to information about the nature of their disability, unless specifically needed to better accommodate the needs of the person with disabilities. Information about an employee’s disability and/or accommodations should never be shared with anyone unless it is necessary and the employee has provided permission.

Web Sites Referenced for the development of this document: