ADHD at Work

ADHD Brains Working at Home: A Beginner’s Guide to Telecommuting

Working from home, especially for the first time, can be tricky for adults with ADHD. Heed these tips for maintaining focus, setting boundaries, avoiding unproductive hyperfocus, and getting the job done with telecommuting and working remotely.

Many adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have started to work from home — some for the first time ever — in response to the crisis caused by the new and distressing respiratory disease. This new autonomy and responsibility — plus the challenges of juggling children home from school and a shifting health crisis — is a cause for anxiety to some.

As a new reality (and new worries) began to sink in this week, a particularly useful and insightful Twitter thread from Katelyn Bowden (@BadassBowden) caught fire. Bowden, who works remotely with ADHD, offers advice that the ADDitude editors agree every brand new telecommuter should read. Here are our favorites from her Twitter thread.

“If you’re like me and have ADHD, it’s going to get WILD,” Bowden says. “It’s a big adjustment, but you got this. May I offer some advice?”

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #1: Take Your Medications

ADHD medication works best when it is taken religiously — at the same time each day, regardless of setting, obligations, or work load. Most medical professionals advise against taking a “medication vacation” during holidays, though certainly no one would consider a global health pandemic a holiday.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #2: Stay at Your Desk

But what if your desk is a mess? Well, if the clutter works for you, then who cares, right? Wrong. There are right and wrong ways to manage your messy desk while sharing your workspace with others (spouse, kids, roommate, dog). Learn how to conjure a controlled sprawl here.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #3: Don’t Get Distracted by Home Stuff

Have you tried using a white noise machine to block out household noise? Fidgets to help you focus through the boring stuff? Also, don’t underestimate the focusing power of getting up from your desk. Use these tips for taking smart breaks that don’t morph into household chores or gardening sessions.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #4: Set Boundaries

Hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your office door. Ask your family members or roommates to respect it, and show them the same courtesy.

Bowden also says: “Also, be mindful that you’re still at work! This is not happy hour. Don’t grab a beer because it’s there and you can.”

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #5: Find Coping Mechanisms

We know many adults with ADHD who use paper planners not just to map out their days, but to keep track of how long tasks actually take to complete. Painting a more accurate picture of where your time is going is the first step toward using that time more efficiently.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #6: Make Your Work Station Only for Work

If you must build Pinterest boards after the kids go to sleep, do so on a tablet from the couch. Make your office a work zone, and social media will be less likely to creep in during the day, too.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #7: Be Aware of the Time

Adults with ADHD don’t see time, we feel it. We also have to work extra hard to externalize time — or risk letting feelings rather than minutes be our guiding light. For kids and adults alike, we love the Time Timer for this job but there are myriad time-management tools for ADHD brains on the market today.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #8: Do Not Get Stuck in Rabbitholes

She goes on: “Look, you love your job, I get it, but you have to mentally go home when your time is up. Do not get started on a project and then work all night because it’s convenient. Set an alarm, and be done.”

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #9: Watch Out for Hyperfocus

Hyperfocus is a common — but confusing — symptom of ADHD. It is the ability to zero in intensely on an interesting project or activity for hours at a time. It is the opposite of distractibility, and it can be a superpower when deadlines loom or crisis hit. It can also cause you to lose hours of your life for no good reason. Be on the alert for the latter.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #10: Move!

The science is clear: Exercise promotes focus in the ADHD brain. Taking a lunchtime walk or doing a 30-minute workout in the middle of the day is not slacking off. It is re-powering your brain for stronger focus upon your return.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #11: Take Advantage…

If the thought of setting up your home office or at least keeping it organized is daunting, consider hiring a professional organizer to consult with you remotely, as organizing expert Leslie Josel suggests.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #12: Clean Up After Yourself

And while you’re cleaning up after yourself, you may want to think about how to declutter and keep your workspace and home as distraction-free as possible. Here are 17 bite-sized ways to cut back on clutter.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #13: Be Easy on Yourself

To acknowledge your own worth, a difficult task for many individuals with ADHD, try to define yourself away from your ADHD and give yourself permission to feel good. That’s one takeaway from this ADDitude piece on silencing your inner critic.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #14: Be Kind to Your Family/Room Mates

Express gratitude by writing notes, dropping off a box of chocolates, or buying your loved one a gift card to their favorite store. Here’s more on how to making time to express your appreciation.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #15: You Aren’t Alone

Looking for a community of, say, 50,000 people who get it? Consider joining our ADDitude support group for adults.

Working from Home with ADHD Pro Tip #16: Welcome the Self-Realizations

But if you are having trouble quieting that self-critical voice as you learn about yourself, it may just be that you’re lousy at self-assessment.

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