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ADHD in the Workplace: Solutions and Success

Strategies for Success

Though these aren’t magic solutions, applying the following strategies can combat symptoms and boost work performance.

  • Figure out what time you’re most alert and focused. This is when you might work on tougher tasks.
  • To improve concentration, ask your boss if you could start earlier or stay later, when the main crowd isn’t there.
  • Try telecommuting some days. Several of Nadeau’s clients find they’re more productive writing reports and proposals from home, so she helps them negotiate the ability to work from home at least part-time.
  • Use a timer. A standby in every coach’s toolbox, a timer is meant to set parameters, according to Linda Anderson, a professional coach specializing in ADHD clients. For instance, set it for 15 minutes and use that time to commit to a task.
  • Have a basket of items you can play with, like clay or squishy balls, said Anderson. She uses a chair that rocks so she doesn’t feel restrained. Anderson also cited Fidget to Focus as a good resource.
  • Get outside for a few minutes if you’re having difficulty concentrating. Exposure to nature, even briefly, can help you refocus.
  • Curb constant email checking. “Email is sparkly and keeps the brain bouncing around,” said Anderson, which can be distracting.
  • Schedule weekly meetings with the boss to discuss your goals and performance. If you don’t want to schedule a formal meeting, just ask your boss for an informal chat about your progress.
  • Keep protein snacks in your drawer or chew gum, said Anderson.
  • Consider a body double — someone who acts as an anchor and quietly works next to you. Here, “the common denominator is connection and not doing it alone,” said Anderson. One of her clients found that he would complete tasks when his wife sat next to him, diligently working.
  • Exercise. Exercise releases endorphins, which make you feel good, and supplies dopamine, which wakes up your brain. Moving around and stretching your legs at regular intervals helps you to regain focus and prevents blood clots from forming in deep leg veins, a potentially deadly condition.
  • Take advantage of the “honeymoon period.” Demonstrate your best work habits in your first three months on the job. After that, you should be able to identify whether you’ll need additional help from a coach or counselor.
  • Create a daily to-do list. A large, unbroken list can become overwhelming.
  • Organize your workplace. Some people have coaches come on Sunday to help them redo their workspace, Fellman said.
  • Use a tape recorder or take notes during meetings.
  • Create routines. As some tasks become automatic, you will have more time to focus on attention issues.
  • Consider an ADHD coach. Coaches can be found at a variety of websites. See this article’s references and resources section for sites.
  • Consider a team of helpers including a therapist, physician and financial advisor.

Disclosing Your Diagnosis

Should you reveal your diagnosis to your boss?

In general, experts suggest against disclosing because of the “common misconceptions and negative images about ADHD,” Nadeau said. “Many that have disclosed their ADHD find they’re often viewed in a negative way; that their supervisor is almost looking for problems and micromanaging them,” she said. If you’re considering disclosing your diagnosis, make sure to talk with a professional first.

Asking for Accommodations

You can request accommodations without formally revealing your diagnosis. Instead, tell your boss how you work best, said Fellman. Try reframing the challenge and suggest a solution, as in the following examples.

Challenge: So noisy you can’t concentrate.
Solution: “I’m having a challenge working in an environment with so much noise; is it possible to have a corner?”

Challenge: Afraid you’re going to miss everything the supervisor says.
Solution: “I do my best if I take notes during this training session; is that okay?”

Challenge: Unsure about your job performance and the short and long-term goals.
Solution: “It’d help me to understand our priorities; can we schedule a meeting today?”

Challenge: Too many minor meetings are distracting you, depleting your attention and taking you away from important tasks.
Solution: “Because I’m finding that attending all of these meetings isn’t the most productive use of my time, can we carefully examine which meetings are critical to attend?”

Getting Treatment for ADHD

“ADHD is one of the most treatable disorders,” Barkley said. It’s vital to get proper treatment, which often includes therapy and medication.

Adults with ADHD often find that medication helps them be more self-controlled, more thoughtful and less deregulated — all results that benefit work performance. “Medication has often made the struggle at work an even playing field,” Fellman said.

So what treatments are available for ADHD? You can learn more about the various types of treatment available for attention deficit disorder. Treatment starts with an initial evaluation by a mental health professional.

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Remember, living with ADHD at work is do-able. You just need to find a set of strategies that are effective for you. Don’t be afraid of seeking treatment for ADHD if it is significantly interfering with your ability to get things done in your life.

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References and other resources

ADHD in the Workplace: Solutions and Success

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). ADHD in the Workplace: Solutions and Success. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.