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ADHD Accommodations

Hey all!

I've been working remote for the last few years and it's been a dream for my buzzy ADHD brain. I got a new job and it requires 2 days a week in the office. I know that doesn't seem like a lot, but the days are honestly a wash as my office neighbors are LOUD. Lots of chatting, phone calls, talking to themselves etc. Now I love to talk as much as the next person, but I am having a really hard time adjusting.

I know I can formally request accomodations (I had them when I was still in the office at my previous job), but I wanted to ask about the optics of that. It's a project management role in local government, so things are pretty formal. I don't exactly want to make myself a problem in my second month, but I'd also like to be productive. Any advice on this is welcome! Even if the advice is to suck it up for a year until I'm more established.

Thank you!

Follow up #1: These responses have been incredibly validating and helpful, thank you all. Over the last week I've started wearing noise cancelling headphones along with Loop earplugs. My job is database heavy so not too many people come up and talk in person. I play brown noise along with the ANC and it makes hearing my coworker a little more difficult. I've also had mini level setting conversations on the way up each day, channeling the nap ministry and everyone on here- "it's okay if today isn't the most productive day in the world. just matters that I breathe through it."

I've also been blocking off do not disturb time for 2 hour blocks. Finally switched my going and getting coffee with coworkers routine to a 2 mile powerwalk together on our lunch break. It's definitely helping as coffee typically makes me knock out anyways. I'll do another update in a few weeks if these aren't working and I need to approach the conversation with my boss.

Hmmm I know it's tricky. I have had the same problem. This is how I would go about it, I think:I would talk with my manager so they are informed that I feel/know I'm less productive in the louder environment. And that you will solve this by wearing noise-canceling headphones when you need to concentrate deeply. Then I would slowly build up the amount of time I'm wearing the headphones. I would announce it first to my colleagues as "sorry I'm going to put these on because I need to concentrate and I can't seem to keep my head on". Or something like this. I would make sure I'm not spending the whole day next to my colleagues with headphones and keep on socializing. I if at all possible I would adjust my agenda so that the days I'm in the office I have more meetings or less difficult jobs to do. Hope this helps, Sigrid
Definitely agree with adjusting your agenda - I definitely operate better on the weeks where I manage to allocate "good work for home" on my WFH days and "good work for work" when I'm in the office. I don't always manage it and then that makes it hard.
Also love the agenda adjustments. Deep think days are really no good if people stop by every 10 minutes.
I had this years ago a coworker would talk out loud all day long to her teammates on the other side of her cube. Her voice was loud and carried. I had a liv that required a lot of writing and reading and needed absolute silence. I went to my bosses boss (my boss was afraid of her) and just asked "can we move our group to XYZ location in the office because we are trying to concentrate and can read and write with your team talking out loud all day long. She said sure no problem and it simple and quick. The key thing is I found the spot before talking to her, it was a dream location in a part of the office where there was only one person and 4 open cubes and no one else around, so I already found the solution before going to her. Figure out what that would for you and then, approach your boss. Don't worry about it being a new joiner.I had maintenance come within the first 2 weeks to remove the overhead fluorescent lights above my cube. That kind of lighting exacerbates my migraines. Again, not a problem. And I didn't disclose any of my conditions.
Ah I've been thinking about moving to a quiet zone. A few of my coworkers are also distracted with the noise so we've talked about moving to the annex of the building to have a silent space. I appreciate knowing this is possible. And haa! My cube neighbor loves all of the lights being on and same, I get migraines with them.
This probably isn't best practice advice - but it's from my own lived experience & perspective. Don't mention ADHD. Just say you need to focus (like any person would) & create boundaries to set the standard, eg, 'no-one can interrupt me if I have my headphones in'. Or perhaps ask to move to a quieter spot.I feel like once you mention ADHD, you suddenly have to be perfect, otherwise people attribute any slip-ups to ADHD & start to notice them more, now they know that it's a 'thing'. Like if you're behind one week because someone was off sick and you were doing their work as well as yours, people will be like 'oh she's struggling/ can't keep up because she has ADHD', dismissing the fact you legitimately had double the work.
I work as a workplace wellbeing consultant and I couldn't agree more. ADHD is within brain health area, and as with any medical information, we don't owe such information to employers and coworkers. And the mental health stigma is a *real* thing.
Yeah, that's been my main struggle here. I definitely wouldn't want to tell the full team about it. I appreciate yours and @MonikaStarzyk s' perspectives!
It’s sad that mentioning ADHD is such an issue especially as so many people have learned they have ADHD or even Autism over the last couple of years since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. How do we normalize accommodations if people are still going to work acting as though we’re ok without them? This absolutely leaves underrepresented talent vulnerable.
Completely - that's why I hesitated when writing that, as it feeds the problem, but is also the current truth :(And to be fair, until I was diagnosed with it, I completely judged it too and wrote it off as 'lazy' in the people I knew even though I was aware of the symptoms etc - so that didn't help. The only thing I've seen work hasn't been around 'awareness' but more about 're-branding'. For example, a few places I've worked at there was always the eccentric genius type who would stay up all night, arrive to work late, but produce amazing work so everyone would just be like 'they're just eccentric' and leave them alone. Leaning into that has worked for me too.
@sigridviaene @Monsterrate82 @Ronnie44 This is all wildly helpful, thank you so much! I'm glad there's ways to handle it other than asking for full blown accommodations.
Lots of great advice already here. A few cents from me:- I'd never suck it up - whether clinical ADHD or somewhere on the spectrum: it's a real thing and it may work against you and your confidence at work if you don't have a supportive work environment. If communicated well, it's only mature and responsible, to be aware of own strengths and weaknesses, own work style, work needs and to put that awareness into practice. The communication could go from "I have a problem and I need something extra"... to "As I'm figuring out how I can contribute most here, I've noticed that .... Therefore, do you think it would be possible to... ? ".- For many people "focus blocks" work, so e.g. the first 2 hours of the day you isolate yourself to work in a deep focus: do the most focused work, and then once around people, the more operational tasks can be performed. - I agree with others about not mentioning "ADHD" at work. The stigma is a real thing. And brain health data is medical data that is your private, sensitive data.- I also highly recommend this test https://addtypetest.com/ and the tips based on the type.
Ah the permission to not suck it up always makes me want to cry, thank you. This is so funny, I've read so many of Dr. Amen's books. Thank you for your thoughtful reply!
Brown noise works wonders if you haven’t discovered it yet.
Definitely have it going all day every day since finding an 8 hour smoothed loop on youtube haha. But thank you!
Brown noise is great. I recently saw something about “green” noise but didn’t take a listen. The point being tho, play around with this kind of sounds.As other comment or so sad, headphones are awesome. I have a SonyXM4 and they have a basic noise canceling setting that’s solid if you don’t want to stream a specific type of noise. I also like them because they have the ability to connect to different Bluetooth devices.
After some trial and error I found a pretty decent pair in my price range. They didn't solve the issue but definitely helped. They were challenged though when my coworker was playing AM radio at her desk full blast the other morning!
Hi I’m a PM and I find headphones (not necessarily playing anything) drown out the office buzz. Or booking a meeting room for a while to get a specific task done in peace and quiet.
I miss having meeting rooms to book, but yes drowning the buzz is always helpful! Thank you!
I understand why people are saying you shouldn't disclose that you have ADHD, but I don't like it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having ADHD and there are so many people that have it and don't even realize it. The goal is to find what works for you and use it to deliver exceptional results, not excuses.I'm a VP at a tech company and I speak freely about having ADHD as a way to normalize it. I have embraced my ADHD as a superpower, not as something to hold me back. Do you need something done yesterday? Come find me because I can hyper focus and bust it out for you! I may need you to stay away from me for the next couple hours so I can keep the focus, but it will get done if I have the right environment. Women are so often undiagnosed, since ADHD looks so different in women vs men. We suffer in silence, and our careers are impacted by it. That's bullshit! I speak freely about it, use it as jokes (about myself), and other women on my team have been diagnosed because I speak openly about it. Proper diagnosis, treatment, and finding out what works for you leads to finding your ADHD superpower. It also helps you figure out what doesn't work, so you can tailor those situations to something that will work.
It's kind of strange, at my last job I was pretty open about it without ever thinking about if it was something I should disclose or not. But at this one everyone is so formal I've been nervous. But I really really appreciate this perspective because same! It's what makes me a really good PM when I'm in the right environment. I also have the inattentive type and I've realized just having one person I can talk about it with was hugely helpful, for me and her! There's almost no literature on it so I felt crazy for years until I had a colleague with the same quirks as me.
@SmithJ21 As a Leader, embracing your weaknesses has an entirely different "look" than when ICs do the same.
You write facts, and I also agree with every opinion you write. Here's why it's not always a good advice to just freely talk about it though (based on consulting tens of companies and confidential 1:1s with employees from hundreds of IT companies):- it's a completely different story when a person of position / power starts to talk about it, and when an employee starts it. - Your Team members and company culture are so lucky to have a VP who breaks the stigma and talks about their ADHD. - If one is an employee, not high in hierarchy / a new employee / not proven their effectiveness yet, then talking about their neurodiversity / mental health disorders is not breaking the stigma though: it is exposing self to stigma. - Which for some will be OK, but for many will have very negative consequences, so the warning should be there.- The stigma (AKA cultural associations) is researched and proved to be very strong. There are local exceptions of course, based on people's awareness (which is fortunately growing). - The only way to break the stigma is by effectively building new associations, opposite to the old, stigmatizing ones. e.g. ADHD -- Being a VP, AKA clearly no excuses, clearly effectiveness at work. That's why what you do is so impactful and important. Sharing your stories could be life changing for many.
I’ve been open about my ADHD in every area of my life, but I a very lucky person who grew up in an environment where I felt safe talking about being in therapy and on an SSRI 20 years ago. I’m with you that we need to normalize talking about ADHD (and all non-neurotypical / neurodivergent brains), but I can appreciate with a lot of the other commenters are saying. You’re leading by example, which is awesome! Esp for women who don’t know that an ADHD could even be an issue for them bc there’s only recently been talk of it in women). I also think it’s important to recognize that people talk about it within the context of their own lives pretty differently so If you are a person who doesn’t know a lot about ADHD, particularly in women, and you hear one person speak about it one way and one person speak about it another way it could potentially muddy the waters for anyone who doesn’t have it. Ie. It is both part of what makes me a rockstar but it’s also exhausting and disabling at times like other mental health challenges that ppl are still struggling to feel safe talking about like depression. I actually think this a really interesting convo about how we introduced topics into professional environments when there is a range of ways in which people experience and how it is exhibited.
This is so thoughtful! You're right though, spectrum disorders are making it really difficult for typical response patterns to make sense.
I don’t have ADHD but I am very easily overwhelmed with noisy environments. I have office neighbors that are super loud and it drives me nuts! I brought up to my supervisor that I was having a hard time focusing and getting work done because they are so loud. He recommended moving to a quieter area for a couple hours, using headphones and our office has private office suites we can use for meetings so he suggested we use those if they are free. Not everyone has those office suites but the other two are good suggestions that should work for you!
These are great suggestions, thank you!
I think it all comes down to how much you feel comfortable sharing (and no shame if you tell them your exact diagnosis or not). There's a lot you can ask for without saying you have ADHD - for example, I work with headphones in and never told anyone I was ADHD - but let people know to message me about chatting (as I preferred it to someone coming up and tapping me on the shoulder). But this was also before I had shared with my broader network about my diagnosis.In addition - I kind of prepared myself for not getting as much uninterrupted time on my in-office days (and probably not getting as much work done). If you do want to share that you are ADHD - would you feel more comfortable speaking with your manager, or with HR? If you have a good rapport with your manager and you feel they would understand, by all means chat with them about it. But you could also go to HR and discuss accommodations (as that's part of their job). Hope this helps!
Woof if someone came up and touched me on my shoulder I'd probably scream? Not ideal. My manager is probably the nicest person I've ever met, but I also don't want her thinking I'm fragile. But I think adjusting my expectations to not have any deep thinking happening in office days will be helpful, thank you!
Yeah - that or people just video calling with no warning - that’s the other one. One thing to remember- you are not fragile - you are asking for what you need. That takes confidence, strength, and self awareness. It’s not easy - but no matter what you do - let your instincts guide you. ❤️ Also - after my in-office days I made sure to take extra time to transition and not plan other commitments, as I was often over depleted or in sensory overload. Keep us posted on what you do - this is such an important topic (asking for accommodations) and your learnings will help the rest of us.
This was so nice, thank you so much!!
Hi! Another ADHD girl here! This is the exact reason why I stopped working at offices.Noice-cancellation headphones are you b best friends in this case! Also, you might want to change a bit your meal schedule, that way when everybody is eating you have a silent place to work. I think that being candid about your condition it's a good way to let your team know about your needs, and open a conversation of how each person works and what are their own special needs, do's and don'ts!
Oh I LOVE the idea of working during the lunch break, that's actually really helpful because typically when they come back is when it's the loudest. So if I could step out that would be perfect. Thanks so much for that idea!!
You'll only know when you ask. That's why there are laws on the books protecting us. Also, it costs money to hire and fire people. They don't want to do that. I have an invisible disability that I'm vocal about as a result because 1) I want people to know in case of an emergency and 2) should I need an accommodation or just have them understand why I have so many doctor's appointments a year, which doesn't include the time I take to get blood draws or other things. If they don't know, they can't help you. I'm on Team Ask for What You Need. FWIW, I'm easily distracted too, and wear headphones on purpose. I went to my primary care just to make sure that I don't have ADHD. I don't, but I'm still easily distracted. I'm in a new role that also requires that I'm in the office 2x a week, and I had people coming up to my desk to introduce themselves, which is lovely. But it shifts me out of my deep work headspace and throws me off. I now keep my headphones on just to ward people off. They mean well, but it's distracting for me.
Team Ask for What You Need should be the name of this thread ha! Thank you so much!
I agree with others stating not to disclose. In my experience, it has only worked against me. If you do decide to disclose, only your manager needs to know, and possibly a person or two above them--your team does NOT need to know. It's okay to tell a close work friend in confidence, but please don't call a meeting or write an email to announce that you have ADHD. In my experience, announcing to a group like that gives everyone an excuse to treat you worse, because they use it as an excuse. Meanwhile, when told in confidence, people will treat you better because they're in on your secret and may realize that you need help. I know it sounds crazy!Arrange to come in on days where you have the most meetings--in my company this tends to be Thursday, as that's the beginning of a new sprint. Days that you'll be collaborating with others. Days where it makes sense to be loud. For the times that you're not in meetings but working at your desk, headphones are a godsend. I am not personally a fan of noise canceling (it's too quiet), but I like over-ear, padded cups that considerably muffle the sound. This way if someone is talking directly to me I can hear them and I don't get startled, but everything else is muffled. I usually don't even have anything playing through mine!If it's still bad enough, and you're really at the end of your rope, maybe do disclose to a boss. Explain why working from home makes you more productive (you should be able to prove this pretty easily--emails, tickets, work items, etc), and ask permission to come in less. If your team needs an explanation, "it's for my health" is sufficient and it's not a lie.
Doesn't sound crazy at all, letting people feel like they're on the inside is a quick bond. Rescheduling to be in on meeting days sounds like the right call. I'm at the point this week where I'm wearing in ear (loop) ear plugs and noise cancelling headphones over it and it's manageable. I just also look like a bit of a jerk while taking out my layers of ear protection when someone stops by my desk. But all of this is incredibly helpful, thank you!
hi @ashgain thank you for bringing this topic up! Just read the thread - lots of helpful practical advice. I am hosting a free AMA (ask me anything) session with an ADHD coach this Friday. We will be discussing what ADHD looks like amongst working adults, and how to create an environment where these people can thrive. The session will be hosted via LinkedIn Live, so everyone is welcome to join! Here is the link: https://www.linkedin.com/video/event/urn:li:ugcPost:6985239515225321472/
This is amazing, I'll definitely be joining. Thanks @katyastepanova15!!