How to help people with ADHD succeed in the workplace

September 15, 2023

For plan members, sponsors and administrators

The prevalence of adults with ADHD in Canada

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental condition that can affect a person’s behaviours, their ability to focus, and their memory.1 It is one of the most common neurodevelopmental conditions in Canada, affecting 4 to 6% of adults in the country.1

Adult diagnoses have been increasing in recent years and this has been noticed within Manulife’s group benefits claims data, too. Over the course of the last five years, Manulife has seen a steady increase in adults submitting claims for ADHD medications.2 From 2021 to 2022, the number of unique claimants for ADHD medication ages 18 and over grew by 24.5%.2

ADHD claims on the rise: What you should know

This article will help you act to create a more inclusive, supportive workplace for people with ADHD.

ADHD and the workplace

ADHD can have an impact on your employees and teams, but there are important things you, as an employer, can do to help your employees with ADHD be at their best in the workplace.3

Making some small changes, which will be outlined in this article, in the way you support your employees and structure the working environment can go a long way in helping someone with ADHD feel more supported.4 It’s important to remember, though, that each person’s experience with ADHD is unique so it’s best to maintain an open dialogue to gain a better understanding of an individual’s specific needs and preferences.

Symptoms of ADHD vary and can be experienced differently from one person to the next. 1 The impact these symptoms can have on the workplace depends on the individual and their work environment, says Dr. Steve Pomedli, Manulife Group Benefits Medical Director, Cleveland Clinic Canada.

“Attentional symptoms can appear as distractibility and difficulty following along in meetings or conversations, or challenges with more detailed work, planning or timeliness,” says Dr. Pomedli.

“Hyperactivity symptoms can manifest as a need to move or change positions frequently, a drive to stay busy and multitask, or difficulty with more repetitive tasks. Impulsivity symptoms can appear as a tendency to speak out of turn, interrupt, or a low tolerance related to frustration.”

WATCH: ADHD impacts on the workplace

Dr. Pomedli explains how the symptoms of ADHD can impact the workplace and highlights the importance of keeping an open dialogue with your employees.

Download a transcript (PDF)

Raising awareness and understanding about ADHD

As an employer, helping your employees with ADHD be successful in your workplace can involve raising awareness and understanding about ADHD amongst leadership and staff at your organization around the symptoms and challenges individuals may experience, and the importance of having key discussions about workplace changes or accommodations.

People with ADHD continue to face stigma about the condition, including in the workplace.5 “Stigma can relate to the misunderstanding of ADHD as only a childhood illness, as well as attitudes which minimize the impact of the symptoms, and beliefs that individuals with ADHD can’t contribute to the workplace as effectively as others,” says Dr. Pomedli.

WATCH: Workplace stigma

Exploring the impacts of workplace stigma and ways employers can build a more inclusive environment for their staff.

Download a transcript (PDF)

Reducing workplace stigma surrounding ADHD requires educating your leaders and staff and fostering an inclusive and supportive environment.5

Here are some steps you can take to reduce workplace stigma:

  • Provide information about ADHD, its symptoms, and how it can affect individuals.
  • Encourage open discussions about health, particularly mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD.
  • Lead by example by being open and supportive towards individuals with ADHD.
  • Support accommodations for employees to help manage their ADHD at work.

Implementing strategies like these can help create a culture that helps employees feel supported in the workplace.

Workplace accommodations to consider for ADHD

Workplace accommodations could help your employees manage their condition and symptoms, and in turn, increase their productivity and efficiency at work.6

“Recognizing that people with ADHD bring their unique assets and skills to the workplace, individualized accommodations at work can address specific needs and help these employees further flourish and meet their potential,” says Dr. Pomedli.

Each person with ADHD is different so it’s important to have an open discussion with your staff member to determine the most effective accommodations.6

Here are some workplace accommodations that might be considered for someone with ADHD:

  1. Quiet workspace. Some people with ADHD will prefer a quiet workspace with minimal distractions. They may also wish to use noise-cancelling headphones or white-noise machines to manage distractions.6
  2. Flexible schedule. For some people with ADHD, following the typical working hours could be difficult. Be open to discussing flexible hours with more frequent breaks throughout the day.6
  3. Structured task management. Help your employees with ADHD organize and structure their day to improve productivity. Allow and encourage employees to create lists and use task-tracking strategies.
  4. Regular check-ins. Schedule frequent check-ins to help employees with ADHD stay on task, provide them with guidance, and address any concerns.

WATCH: Workplace accommodations for ADHD

Dr. Pomedli explains the accommodations an employer might consider to help employees manage their condition.

Download a transcript (PDF)

Benefits of supporting employees with ADHD

Supporting your employees with ADHD to be successful in the workplace is a strategy to create a more inclusive and productive workplace that can benefit both employees and the organization. By providing information about ADHD to staff, encouraging open discussions, leading by example, and supporting accommodations for employees when requested, employers can ensure everyone can contribute and reach their full potential.

ADHD and your Manulife Group Benefits Plan

To support your employees with ADHD, ensure your Manulife Group Benefits Plan has adequate coverage for mental health to help them manage their condition.

            Mental health gaps: How your plan can better support employees

When someone has ADHD, finding the right medication that works best for them can be tough. Pharmacogenetic testing, Personalized Medicine, can reduce trial and error and help doctors prescribe the right drug, based on the individual person's genetics.

            Manulife launches Personalized Medicine program

To find out more information about Personalized Medicine or to discuss your group benefits plan in detail, reach out to your Manulife representative.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice or to replace the advice of a medical doctor. Please contact your physician or a health care provider to obtain medical advice.


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Health insights: ADHD claims on the rise

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