Adult ADHD and the Office Environment

February 28, 2019

Young woman struggling to focus at work
Jonathan Thompson

For the most part, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is generally associated with childhood. In reality, close to 5 percent of American adults struggle with this neurological condition. And while ADHD certainly presents a number of challenges for children, the disorder can shift as a person matures, manifesting in different ways and requiring different strategies. For example, how can an individual cope with ADHD at work?

Differing Symptoms

Before diving into management strategies, it's important to be clear on the differences between childhood and adult ADHD. This will provide a clearer picture of the challenges and how to handle them.

The primary distinction has to do with the way that the hyperactivity inherent in ADHD manifests itself as people age. Children with the condition, for instance, often deal with seemingly boundless energy. In adults, however, this hyperactivity tends to turn inward — morphing into feelings of restlessness or edginess. This in turn, can lead to mood swings and difficulty controlling one's temper.

According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of adult ADHD include:

  • Disorganization
  • Impulsiveness
  • Poor planning skills
  • Restless or excessive activity
  • Poor time-management skills
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble coping with stress
  • Lack of focus

It's fairly clear that ADHD can negatively impact an individual's productivity in the office. How can you effectively cope with ADHD at work?

Channel That Extra Energy

As mentioned, the primary challenge that adults with ADHD will face at work has to do with feelings of restlessness. This results in difficulty focusing and can even effect interpersonal relationships and productivity in the office. A key strategy for adults dealing with ADHD involves finding a healthy way to channel this restless energy.

Workstations that allow you to stand, fidget or otherwise move around during your work day can be extremely useful in these situations. Depending on your circumstances, you may find that standing desks, desk bikes or risers could help you expend some of that hyperactivity while still accomplishing your work. In fact, research has found that physical activity during the work day — even if it took away from regular work hours — can increase your overall productivity.

In most cases, a combination of workstations and postures is the best solution. By giving yourself options, you can avoid maintaining one position all day, which is better for both your physical and mental health.

Limit Distractions

Because ADHD is characterized by difficulty focusing and a lack of organizational skills, it's also important to find ways to cope with these hurdles.

One simple strategy involves sorting out which times during the day you perform your best work and scheduling your most demanding tasks during this window. Similarly, you might find that you need to adopt a slightly different schedule so that you can be at work — and deal with more challenging aspects of your job — when there are fewer people present.

When you do have to be present during potentially distraction-filled times, like meetings, try to get in the habit of taking detailed notes or even recording the conversation. This will give you the opportunity to review the information later and in smaller chunks so that it's easier to process.

For adults with the condition, dealing with ADHD at work can present a number of unique challenges. By making a few adjustments, however, you can maintain and even increase your productivity in the office.

Sign Up to Receive Our Newsletter & Get the Best Ergonomic Tips