6 Workplace tips for women living with ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in women often goes undiagnosed, and many women don’t discover they have ADHD until well into adulthood. 

For a high proportion of women, ADHD presents itself as inattentiveness and disorganisation rather than hyperactivity. It’s also common for women with ADHD to live with other conditions, such as anxiety or depression, which can mean the ADHD gets overlooked. 

Receiving a diagnosis comes with a sense of relief for many women who have struggled with ADHD symptoms for years. If you’re living with ADHD and struggling to cope at work or find a job, it’s important to seek help. The right treatments, supports and services can help you feel more confident and empowered in your work life. 

Here are 6 workplace tips for women living with ADHD:

1. Get career advice

If you’re looking for work, or struggling to cope in your current role, consider speaking to an employment consultant. Although everyone’s needs when it comes to work are different, some types of jobs and work environments may make it challenging to manage ADHD symptoms.

The best jobs for people with ADHD tend to be flexible with lots of variety, and a job that’s connected to your interests can help with motivation and focus. Some women with ADHD work best in highly structured roles where routine helps them stay focused and manage their time. Others feel most fulfilled when they have more flexibility in their schedule and more control over how to structure their day. 

An employment consultant can help you plan your career and find opportunities that are a good fit for you. If you’re transitioning back into work after a break, an employment consultant can help you get work experience opportunities, access relevant skills training and build your confidence. They can also put you in touch with services or access accommodations to help you feel more in control and supported at work.

2. Ask for workplace accommodations

Workplace accommodations are changes in the workplace, your work schedule or job responsibilities that help you succeed in your job. The changes can be small, such as using noise cancelling headphones to reduce distractions or working from home some days. Or they can be more substantial, such as reducing your hours to part time or reassigning particular tasks to another team member.

In Australia, employers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace so that employees can do their job properly and safely. If you feel comfortable talking to your employer, you can ask them directly for changes in the workplace that would help you. 

You can also get support to ask for reasonable adjustments through DES Brisbane or Disability Employment Service in a location near you. If you’re not sure what kind of support you need, your provider can conduct a workplace assessment to find solutions tailored to your situation.

3. Manage your time

Many women with ADHD experience challenges when it comes to managing their time. Poor time management can lead to stress, frustration and miscommunication at work. 

Having the right tools and techniques can help you stay more organised, stick to deadlines and focus your time on your priorities.

Some time management techniques that might help at work include:

  • Create a schedule for your day the night before
  • Order your to-do list by priority
  • Use scheduling and organisation apps
  • Set timers so you don’t lose track of time
  • Always give yourself extra buffer time when scheduling a task
  • Create a routine 
  • Schedule frequent check-ins with your supervisor

If you feel comfortable, speak with your employer about changes in the workplace that help you manage your time better or reduce your stress around time management. 

For example, they may be willing to set clear deadlines for you, rather than requesting work be done “ASAP” or “next week sometime”. They may also be willing to pay for organisation apps or project management software that benefits you and the whole team.

4. Limit distractions

Whether you’re working in an office, at home or on site, every workplace comes with distractions. Take time to think about what circumstances are particularly distracting to you – and then brainstorm solutions for minimising the distractions.

Here are some potential solutions to consider:

  • Use noise cancelling headphones
  • Face your desk towards a blank wall
  • Keep your workspace neat and clutter-free
  • Mute notifications – and deal with your inbox at a particular time of the day
  • Work on one task at a time
  • Only have one tab open in your browser at a time
  • Set boundaries with your colleagues or family about when they can and can’t interrupt you

5. Look after your health

Looking after your physical and mental health can make it easier to manage your symptoms and perform in your job.

Try to include the following lifestyle habits in your routine:

  • Stay active – exercise can be particularly helpful for women with hyperactivity, improving focus, mental wellbeing and physical health. 
  • Get enough sleep – Sleep can also have a big impact on your ability to focus at work. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night, and limit your screen time in the evenings.
  • Use relaxation techniques and mindfulness exercises to help you manage stress.
  • Eat a healthy diet, rich in wholegrains, vegetables and fruit.
  • Speak with a mental health professional if you’re experiencing anxiety, stress or depression symptoms.

6. Strengthen your support network

Having a strong support network around you can make it easier to manage your symptoms and overcome challenges that come up. Make time to connect with trusted colleagues at work, as well as friends and family. Peer support groups may also help, giving you a chance to connect with others who have similar experiences. 

If you’re having trouble finding work or coping in your job, get in touch with your local Disability Employment Services provider. They can help you access a range of supports and services that are right for you – and support you to reach your employment goals.

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