9 Ways office workers with ADD/ADHD can improve their performance

9 Ways office workers with ADD/ADHD can improve their performance

While images of a fidgety second-grader may initially come to mind when people think of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), plenty of adults deal with the condition too.

A survey sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that  4.4% percent of people aged 18 to 44 have a current diagnosis of ADHD. This figure likely will grow significantly in the years ahead as members of Generation Z continue to enter the workforce.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms vary, but some common challenges faced by adults with ADHD include:

Impulsiveness; disorganization and problems prioritizing; poor time management skills; problems focusing on a task; trouble multitasking; excessive activity or restlessness;…
low frustration tolerance; frequent mood swings; problems following through and completing tasks; hot temper; trouble coping with stress

Mayo Clinic

The good news is that plenty of strategies exist for adults with ADD/ADHD to boost their performance and excel at the office. Here’s a look at nine such tactics:

  1. Limit distractions

    Increase the odds of staying focused by eliminating things that divert attention. Close computer tabs not in use. Maintain a clean desk. Sit up front during presentations to concentrate on the speaker rather than the audience. If your office has a door, close it. Request a cubicle away from the water cooler, staff mailboxes, and other high traffic areas. Seek a quiet conference room when your workplace’s open design proves too distracting for completing an intense project. Granted, you can’t control everything, but small actions can lead to big payoffs.

  2. Try music

    As this article from ADDitude notes,

    Music is rhythm, rhythm is structure, and structure is soothing to an ADHD brain struggling to regulate itself to stay on a linear path.

    Anni Layne Rodgers

    Music also raises dopamine levels in the brain, which can help with motivation, focus, and working memory. And who doesn’t receive a quick mood boost simply from listening to a favorite song or belting out some lyrics in the car?

    Find ways to incorporate music into your life, perhaps by practicing an instrument regularly, taking a music appreciation class, or experimenting with how different types of music make you feel. Grab a pair of headphones and see if playing tunes improves focus as you work on office tasks; studies show that some children with ADHD benefit from listening to music while doing homework.

  3. Talk to yourself

    OK, you might not want to do this loudly or around colleagues, but verbalizing helps some workers with ADHD deal with the multitude of things going through their brain. Putting thoughts into words and saying them aloud can make them easier to follow and remember. Plus, hearing encouragement may discourage procrastination (as in “Stay on track. You’re only two steps away from finishing this assignment.”).

  4. Take breaks

    After years of punishing kids with ADHD by taking away their recess, many teachers have discovered that doing so usually makes things worse. Adults likewise should build time into their daily work schedule for breaks – to move around, burn energy, and let the mind relax. Such actions make settling down again more bearable.

  5. Create checklists

    Frequently forgetting items at home? Come up with a standard list of things to bring to the office each day. Check off each entry as you place it in your backpack or briefcase. The same format works well for completing assignments. Break projects down into specific, actionable chunks that you cross off when finished.

  6. Ask for written instructions

    Similarly, many workers find it helpful if their manager writes down what they want done. This document keeps tasks organized in one central place and serves as a point of reference rather than relying on memory. Most employers want employees with ADHD to succeed and consider such a request a reasonable accommodation.

  7. Enlist a “once-over” buddy

    Difficulty with details? Ask a trusted colleague to proofread important correspondence before it goes to a client or to look over what you believe is a finished form. Team members are usually happy to help one another, and you can always look for ways to repay the favor in the future.

  8. Exercise

    Physical movement clears the mind, improves mood, reduces restlessness, and improves attention span. Regular pre-work sessions on the treadmill or power walks at lunch can have a powerful effect on managing ADHD symptoms.

  9. Seek assistance

    Finally, remember that ADHD doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. Talk with a doctor or other qualified professional about options for your individual case. Medicine, biofeedback, stress reduction, meditation, support groups, sleep improvement, or dietary changes might do wonders for your workplace performance and overall well-being.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended as medical advice.