Managing ADHD at Work

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects around 5 percent of adults in Australia. It is a leading cause of difficulties in educational, occupational and social life. ADHD can cause a range of complications, including lack of focus, restlessness, hyperactivity, distractibility, forgetfulness and impulsivity. These symptoms can disrupt a person’s ability to perform well at work, but with the right strategies, it is possible to manage ADHD in the workplace effectively.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a chronic mental health disorder that causes an ongoing pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It is usually diagnosed in childhood, but the symptoms may persist into adulthood. ADHD affects the brain’s executive functions, which are the skills required for planning, organizing, prioritizing, and completing tasks.

Impact of ADHD on Work Performance

ADHD can affect various aspects of work performance, such as:

  • Difficulty in concentrating on tasks
  • Lack of organizational skills
  • Procrastination and difficulty in meeting deadlines
  • Forgetfulness and loss of objects
  • Impulsivity and taking undue risks at work
  • Difficulty in following instructions
  • Trouble in communicating thoughts and ideas
  • Inability to maintain focus in meetings or group discussions

These symptoms can lead to poor work performance, missed deadlines, conflicts with colleagues and supervisors, and lack of career growth opportunities.

Managing ADHD Symptoms at Work

Managing ADHD at work requires a combination of strategies, including:

1. Medication

Medications such as stimulants and non-stimulants are commonly used to treat ADHD. These medications help reduce hyperactivity, impulsivity and increase attention span. However, these medications should be taken under the supervision of a healthcare professional. It is essential to follow the prescribed dose and take it as directed.

2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment that focuses on changing negative behavior patterns by addressing the thoughts and feelings behind them. CBT can help people with ADHD learn coping skills and relaxation techniques to manage stress, develop organizational strategies, and improve time management skills. In combination with medication, CBT can help people with ADHD develop effective approaches to work.

3. Workplace Accommodations

Workplace accommodations refer to adjustments made to the work environment to help a person with ADHD work to their full potential. This may include:

  • Providing noise-cancelling headphones to block out distracting sounds
  • Providing organizers or task lists to help with time-management and organization
  • Allowing for flexible work schedules, such as working from home or adjusting work hours to accommodate for peak productivity
  • Meeting with the boss regularly to discuss progress and new strategies for success
  • Providing a private workspace to minimize distractions

4. Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can help people with ADHD manage symptoms effectively. These include:

  • Getting enough sleep: Poor sleep can worsen ADHD symptoms, so it is essential to get enough rest each night. Adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Exercise: Regular physical exercise can help reduce hyperactivity and improve mental focus. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
  • Diet: A diet rich in protein and low in sugar can help manage energy levels and reduce symptoms of ADHD.
  • Meditation: Meditation can help calm the mind, reduce stress and improve focus.

Tips for Success with ADHD at Work

Here are some tips that can help a person with ADHD succeed in the workplace:

  • Create a to-do list and prioritize tasks according to importance.
  • Break tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks.
  • Set reminders and alarms to help prompt task completion.
  • Minimize interruptions by turning off phone notifications, email alerts, and other distractions.
  • Take breaks when needed to recharge.
  • Communicate openly with colleagues and supervisors about the challenges faced with ADHD.


ADHD can pose challenges to work productivity, but with the right strategies and support, it is possible to manage symptoms effectively in the workplace. A combination of medication, CBT, workplace accommodations, and lifestyle changes can help a person with ADHD work productively and thrive in their career.


FAQs about Managing ADHD at Work

1. What are some common challenges faced by individuals with ADHD at work?

Individuals with ADHD may struggle with staying focused, meeting deadlines, and managing time effectively. They may also have difficulty completing tasks that are tedious or require sustained effort. Communication and social skills can also be challenging, and workplace relationships may suffer as a result.

2. How can employers support employees with ADHD?

Employers can provide accommodations such as flexible work schedules, task lists, and organizational tools. They can also provide a quiet work environment, clear expectations, and regular feedback. Employees with ADHD also benefit from access to mental health services and support groups.

3. What strategies can individuals with ADHD use to improve their productivity at work?

Individuals with ADHD can adopt strategies such as using a planner or calendar, breaking tasks into smaller parts, taking regular breaks, and utilizing mindfulness techniques. Setting goals and prioritizing tasks can also be helpful, as well as seeking feedback from coworkers and supervisors. It’s important to communicate openly with your employer about your challenges and needs.


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3. Nigg, J. T. (2017). Annual research review: On the relations among self-regulation, self-control, executive functioning, effortful control, cognitive control, impulsivity, risk-taking, and inhibition for developmental psychopathology. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, 58(4), 361-383.