Everything you need to know about living with ADHD and holding down a job

Are you living with ADHD and unable to hold down a job?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder that may cause symptoms such as restlessness, hyperactivity, boredom and distractedness. For adults with ADHD, these symptoms can make it challenging to perform well at work.

With the right support and coping strategies in place, people with ADHD can find fulfilling work and thrive in their jobs.

Many common ADHD qualities like adaptability, problem-solving and passion can make people with ADHD desirable candidates for particular roles.

In this guide we have put together advice about finding a job and coping with ADHD at work. You’ll find tips about finding the right job opportunities, strategies to succeed at work and where to get support if you need it.

Can I get a job with ADHD?

Although ADHD symptoms can present some challenges when it comes to maintaining a steady job, there’s no reason why you can’t find success with employment.

In fact, working can be highly beneficial for your life by:

  • Increasing your financial freedom
  • Giving you a sense of purpose
  • Creating opportunities for you to meet new people
  • Giving you the chance to learn new skills
  • Boosting your self-esteem

If you’re finding it difficult to cope at work or are worried about losing your job, support is available.

APM can help you access the right support so you can succeed in your job.

What jobs are best for someone with ADHD?

People living with ADHD work in a wide range of job roles and industries.

Some find that highly structured roles with a clear schedule helps them stay focused and in control. Others thrive in fast-paced, high intensity roles where they can use their skills of fast thinking and adaptability.

If you're looking for a new job, speaking to an employment consultant from APM could help you discover career pathways and employment opportunities that are a good fit for you.

For career inspiration and tips about searching for work, check out our guide to jobs for people with ADHD.

Strategies for coping in the workplace with adult ADHD

It's important to understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you can work towards making changes in the workplace that play to your strengths and minimise the impact of the things you struggle with.

Try the following strategies for coping in the workplace:

Minimise distractions

For many adults with ADHD, managing distractions is the biggest challenge at work. Many distractions come from the environment, for example noises and movement from co-workers.

To help manage these external distractions you could:

  • Face your desk towards the wall
  • Use noise cancelling headphones
  • Start work earlier before co-workers arrive
  • Request a private office
  • Send phone calls directly to voicemail and deal with them at a set time of day

Distractions can also come from within. Internal distractions can be things like creative ideas popping into your mind, suddenly remembering things you have to do or daydreaming.

To help minimise internal distractions, you can try:

  • Write down any sudden ideas so you can deal with them later
  • Use a planning system or calendar to help you remember all your tasks, appointments and deadlines
  • Deal with one tasks at a time
  • Set focus cues like an alarm or a pop up notification that reminds you to stay focused

Stay organised

Struggles with your working memory can make it difficult to hold lots of information in your mind at one time and stay organised.

To improve your working memory and stay on top of tasks, try to:

  • Use a recording device or take notes at meetings
  • Use checklists and sticky notes to remember what tasks you need to do
  • Break complex tasks into smaller parts
  • Set alerts on your phone to remind you of upcoming meetings and appointments
  • Check in with your supervisor regularly

Manage your time

Time management can be a challenge if you have a short attention span or if you experience periods of hyperfocus.

Improve your time management by:

  • Breaking big projects up into smaller tasks with individual due dates
  • Giving yourself rewards for completing tasks
  • Using timers and alarms
  • Setting up alerts on your computer 5 minutes before a meeting starts
  • Avoid making impulsive commitments or over committing

Stay active

People who experience hyperactivity may thrive best in an active, fast paced job role. If your job requires you to sit at a desk for long periods, take opportunities to move throughout the day.

For example, you could:

  • Take regular breaks to stretch your legs like walking to get a drink of water or using the photocopying machine
  • Choose to physically go and talk to someone in the office rather than calling or messaging them
  • Use your lunch break to do some exercise
  • Sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair or request a standing desk

Use mindfulness techniques

If you struggle with impulsivity and temper outbursts, consider using mindfulness apps and relaxation techniques. These may help you slow down and take a step back before acting.

Reflect on the times you have struggled with impulsivity and emotional outbursts. By recognising the types of situations that trigger your outbursts, you can work on practical strategies to help you handle similar situations in the future.

To avoid over-committing, don't say yes to things straight away. Instead, try saying something like, 'I would like to do that, but let me check my calendar first'. This will give you time to make a more thoughtful decision.

Ask for feedback

If you want to improve your social skills at work, it's a good idea to ask for feedback from trustworthy people, such as a manager or a close co-worker.

You could also speak to a coach or employment consultant about ways to improve workplace relationships. An employment consultant can also help you access the right support at work to help you succeed.

Asking for reasonable adjustments at work

Reasonable adjustments or workplace modifications are changes in your work environment or job role that help you do your job better.

For example, changing the layout of your workstation to reduce distractions or having a flexible schedule which allows you to start earlier in the day.

Your employer is legally required to make reasonable adjustments and could be eligible for financial assistance from the government to do so.

If you're not sure what changes might help you cope at work, or don't know how to go about asking for reasonable adjustments, APM can help.

Ways we can help:

  • Advice about ways to change your workplace to better support you
  • Workplace assessments to help discover adjustments that might be useful for you
  • Accessing special equipment to help you succeed in your role

Is ADHD considered a disability in the workplace?

If you are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, you could be eligible for the Disability Employment Services program which helps people living with injury, illness or disability find work and thrive in their job.

When you register for Disability Employment Services with APM, we can help you access support that's right for you whether you are looking for a job with ADHD or need help in your current role.

A dedicated Employment Consultant will work closely with you and your employer to find solutions that help you feel empowered in your job.

Need help coping with ADHD at work?

If you are living with ADHD and unable to hold down a job, help is available. At APM, we help people with ADHD like you find solutions so that you can keep working and feel confident in your role.

Whether you need temporary or ongoing support in your current role, or want to find a new job – we’re ready to help you overcome the challenges of living with ADHD and celebrate a life-changing win with you.

Our Disability Employment Services and WorkAssist programs are government funded which means no cost to you or your employer.

Ready to get to work? Register today to find out if you’re eligible for the Disability Employment Services program.