Memo to ADDers: Fix Your Workplace, Revive Your Career

How to get organized at work, focus on the job, and maximize your effectiveness with adult ADHD.

ADD at Work, Part 3

When traveling to work or an appointment, Novotni recommends scheduling more time to get there than you think you'll need. Don't focus on your arrival time, she says. Focus on the time you need to leave your present location in order to arrive at the other location on time.

Be careful, too, not to give in to the "just-one-more-thing" impulse. "If you think of one more thing to do as you're preparing to leave your house," says Nadeau, "write down your idea and act on it later."

Put me in, coach

While psychologists inevitably spend time with their ADD patients discussing work-related issues, many people with ADD are turning to "coaches" for help in devising workplace strategies. Some coaches have no formal training in psychology. Others, like Novotni, are psychologists who coach on the side.

Coaches typically work by telephone, offering guidance and checking in periodically to see how things are going. Eventually, the clients "internalize" this external direction and learn to monitor their own performance on the job.

"I spend a lot of time working with ADD clients to get clear about exactly what it is they need in order to do the very best job they can," says Kerch McConlogue, an ADD coach in Baltimore. "Everyone's needs are different. I've found that having toys at their desk that they can fiddle with while they're working often helps people with ADD. Another one of my clients simply wanted to be able to stand up while she worked. As it turned out, her office had a kitchen with a raised counter, where she goes to stand and do her work anytime she needs to. It makes her more productive, and didn't cost the company a thing."

To find an ADD coach, says McConlogue, go to ADDConsult.com, ADD.org, CHADD.org, or ADDResources.com.

Should you tell?

If medication is doing its job and your coping strategies are working well, you may decide you don't need to tell your boss or anyone else at work that you have ADD. But a good argument can be made for filling in your supervisor about your condition.

"A lot of people don't want to disclose they have ADD," says Novotni. "But people already notice that you're missing details or have a hard time focusing, and they're calling it something—laziness, irresponsibility, lack of intelligence. The fact is, many people find they're treated better after they reveal that they have ADD—because now their co-workers have an explanation for their work style."

Ideally, by telling your boss, you'll gain an ally in helping you to set up an optimal work environment. On the other hand, says Novotni, you can do this without spelling out the fact that you have ADD. She says, "I've had patients who have simply gone to their supervisor and said, 'I wanted to let you know that I really work best in the early morning, when the office is quiet.'"

Another reason to let your company know you have ADD is to protect yourself legally. ADD is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act—the same law that requires buildings to have wheelchair access.

"If you have ADD, you are entitled to receive accommodation for it," says Dr. Silver. "You have to disclose your disability to your employer, then look carefully over your job description and spell out exactly what accommodations you'll need. That could include permission to move around while you're working, a special computer, more time to complete certain tasks, and so on."

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How do you stay organized at work? Share strategies with others in the ADHD at Work support group on ADDConnect.


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