Harnessing your superpower

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Written by Megan Hitchcock

I was diagnosed with ADHD in January 2021, whilst I was in the middle of Masters degree. Since then, I have been on a journey of self-discovery (to use a classic cliché). I threw myself into researching ADHD and neurodivergence. Life began making sense in light of my diagnosis.

My research completely challenged my understanding of ADHD and neurodivergence, dispelling common misconceptions and myths associated with the disorder, and exposing me to helpful techniques and strategies that could aid focus.

With the diagnosis occurring during my studies, I quickly shifted my learning style, moving towards bright colours, spider diagrams, bullet points, easy-to-read notes, and very detailed essay plans. I also implemented The Pomodoro Study Technique, helping to keep me focused by taking regular 5-minute breaks. The change in my grades was drastic, and in the final term of my masters I achieved some of my highest grades ever.

Moving from the cosy bubble of academia to the world of work, I was confident I had perfected my ADHD learning style and could implement this going forwards. However, I encountered some trouble. Having studied during the pandemic, I had been able to avoid external distractions, background chatter and interruption, and found moving into an office environment challenging. I had to quickly reassess how I could work with my diagnosis in a professional setting.

Here’s what worked for me:

  • Communication
    Being open and honest to my incredibly supportive colleagues and letting them know what I found tricky, and if I was struggling.
  • Noise cancelling headphones
    When I have found the office environment over stimulating, my noise cancelling headphones have been a godsend, allowing me to enter my own world and focus on tasks at hand
  • Notion
    Notion is an online workspace, where you can create calendars, to-do lists, tables and customise the colours, fonts, and format. For someone this ADHD this is a dream, and it helps me stay organised in my professional and personal life

Stand have been incredibly willing to learn about ADHD, neurodivergence, and how they can work with me so I can perform to the best of my abilities. Here are some of my tips for employers who want to help their neurodivergent employees:

  • Culture and communication
    Whilst I am vocal about my ADHD diagnosis, some employees may be more private. Ensuring there is a culture in place where employees feel comfortable to communicate their differences is the first and most important step to bettering the experience for employees with ADHD
  • Flexibility
    Rigidity is a thing of the past, with the pandemic demanding flexibility in all areas of life; and the office is no different. Enabling people to have a more flexible and personalised approach to their working style removes any of the traditional, neurotypical processes that can be alienating for neurodivergent team members. Keep an open mind to suggestions and changes – creativity is an ADHD superpower!

  • The 9-5
    The 9-5 is being challenged; flexible working hours are being implemented, working-from-home being kept as a permanent feature, and the 1-hour lunch break being adapted. My 2 WFH days have been a welcome adaptation to the working week, giving me flexibility to work in my preferred environment. Also, splitting up my breaks so I can regularly exercise throughout the day really helps keep me focused and reduces my distractibility.

  • Targeted support
    People with ADHD may struggle with disorganisation, inattention and difficulty accepting constructive criticism and appraisal. Targeted support in managing stress, even if its just a weekly check-in, can really help with their ability to cope with office interactions

All this being said, an ADHD brain can be an asset to organisations, providing a unique outlook on situations. People with ADHD can be brilliant in crisis situations, find unique solutions to difficult problems, bring a new level of creativity to the team, see all sides of the situation, and be incredibly empathetic and intuitive.

ADHD diagnoses are on the rise, particularly in women, so employers need to re-think the outdated and neurotypical processes in place that can alienate neurodivergent employees. In order to avoid disaffecting this group, it’s time to make some changes.

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