Mental health

Rethinking mental health in the workplace

Rethinking mental health in the workplaceIvana Georgievska
April 19, 2022

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Rethinking mental health in the workplace (interview about ADHD)

Studies prove that many adults with ADHD are successful entrepreneurs. Innovative ideas, high energy, and other strengths are huge advantages in the right career. 

We've talked with one of our coworkers about the challenges with ADHD in the workplace.

In this article, we cover: 

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition that can cause unusual levels of hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors. 

People with ADHD may also have trouble focusing their attention on a single task or sitting still for long periods of time.

Many people experience inattention and changes in energy levels. For a person with ADHD, this happens more often and to a greater extent compared with people who don’t have the condition.

Kasia’s story with ADHD

1. When did you start noticing something different about how you feel and act at work?

I always seemed to function in cycles. At first, I was very excited about the job. I worked a lot and overachieved the goals. I’ve always been an overachiever, even at school. 

After a year, year and a half, tops, I would feel burned out. I wouldn’t meet deadlines or do only the bare minimum, which would shock my employer. It’s understandable because they know they have this strong worker, but then everything changes and nobody knows why.

These cycles have been present in my work life since the beginning - when I was 15 years old, with my first summer job, and during weekends.

I thought that I’m suffering from depression. I would take sick leave, work it through and come back. But I would normally change jobs afterward.

2. What’s your diagnosis and how does it affect your everyday life?

It was last year when I first started looking into the cycle. I didn’t want to go to another company, oversell myself initially, and still struggle with my mental health and work through it to the point when I can’t work anymore. 

I spoke to my therapist about it. My antidepressants helped with my mood, but not with my functioning. 

I didn’t care about not being able to do as much as I wanted. I wanted to start caring and accomplishing more.

At around that time, I came across an article about ADHD. When I read through the symptoms and other people’s stories, finally everything made sense.

For example, if I’m interested and invested in a project, I can hyperfocus on it. 

I took this article to my therapist and discussed the idea that perhaps ADHD is the explanation for my cycle of working very hard then not working at all. I struggled with being consistent with my work.

I went to a psychiatrist and did a big diagnostics test called DIVA-5. The doctor explained that many people aren’t diagnosed at an early age, especially women. 

Inattentiveness being the main symptom in girls, they don’t get diagnosed until their late twenties, mid-thirties, or even forties. As for me, I was never aggressive but rather talkative. 

On the other hand, due to hyperactivity, men tend to be more aggressive, thus getting diagnosed earlier.

3. How did it manifest at the workplace?

While working in an office, I tried to finish most of the work between 10 AM and 1 PM because I knew that my focus and energy went into a downward spiral after that time.

Sometimes when I didn’t feel very well I would start making silly mistakes such as sending the third email without the attachment.

4. What’s the difference between working in an office and remote work with flexible hours?

When I worked at an office, a big part of the tasks was mundane like accounting, bookkeeping, and documentation, and I got easily bored.

I don’t have a problem with organizing, though. I have to be meticulous to structure my day and be a functional adult. 

However, I realized that I couldn’t have the “standard job” mold that permitted working during strict hours, predetermined breaks, from Monday to Friday and expected to do almost the same thing every day.

I cannot be consistent like that. I can do a mountain of work in one day, which is exceptional. Not everyone can put that much focus on work. Most of us put in about 50% on good days and 20% on bad days.

I worked for about 30% of the time during my office job and struggled for the rest 70%.

Ultimately, neurotypical and ADHD people contribute the same amount of work and effort at the workplace, spreading it differently. 

Another thing that came as a difficulty was the daily commuting and getting ready for work in the morning.

I am most productive when I’m in my own space, it being as organized or disorganized as I need it to be - being able to wake up and just start working.

For me, remote working is perfect in every sense of the word. Nobody is bothering me and I can do all the work I have at any part of the day. Whenever I feel distracted, I take a one-hour nap and then work as usual.

More importantly, I don’t feel guilty anymore when I need some time off.  

guide to remote team

5. What are your strengths and weaknesses regarding work?

My biggest strength would be coming up with creative solutions because I normally see things differently.

I always see the bigger picture which allows me to see new angles in any situation. I’m also very good at brainstorming sessions with people.

I’m not detail-oriented. For example, I’m a terrible proofreader, but I will consider how specific wordings could affect the wider audience. 

I’m not a linear thinker. Instead, my mind doesn’t go in order like a, b, c, d, but a, z, h, t. Innovation is my great strength.  

Another strength or weakness is being able to hyperfocus on an exciting project. I give everything I have when I like something, even my personal time, because I don’t see it as work but as a hobby. 

I struggle with remembering meetings, dates, and such specifics. This is why I use external “memory” and reminders like Google Calendar.

I sometimes write things down on paper but then totally forget about it and throw it away, so I don’t recommend using paper reminders.  

This forgetfulness is bad in recruitment when you need to remind people constantly. Therefore, I set myself reminders to remind somebody else. 

In short, I’m good with ideas but not good at executing them.

6. What kind of job would you recommend to people with ADHD?

First of all, to work at a company that allows flexible work hours. 

We also need group team communication, like having our weekly calls where we share our successes and problems. 

ADHD-ers are very creative problem solvers. We work pretty well under pressure, in fast-paced environments, but not every day.

Event organizer or similar positions would be highly suitable because it involves a highly intense period of organization, preparation, and conclusion of a phase followed by a cooling down and relaxation period.

Any job that includes periodical big workloads and breaks until the next challenge would be well suited for the ADHD brain. 

7. How can a company best support neurodivergent people?

First of all, flexibility with working hours, the work pace and being open to inconsistent output from a person with ADHD.

Taking my best work days in consideration when evaluating the bad ones would be fair and helpful.

When you don’t see me nodding in confirmation during meetings, I’m probably caught up in a daydream. I would much appreciate it if people didn’t get upset or offended by that, but simply ask me a question to get me back into the conversation. 

I don’t know that I’m zoning out sometimes. It would be perfect If anybody from the team wouldn’t be judgemental about it. 

I don’t think the people or the subject is boring in these kinds of situations. It’s outside of my control.

Another thing would be to have a place where I can vent like I’m doing right now.

And honestly, this is an entirely new experience for me.

Whenever I would be frustrated and anxious before, I didn’t have the means or opportunity to talk to people from work about it. 

Now, here at Talentroo, whenever I feel bad or unmotivated, I can just set up a call with Mel or anybody from the team and tell them about the problem I’m having.

Here everybody tells me that it’s okay, that everything is perfectly normal and immediately asks questions to figure out what exactly is causing me the frustration.

This is the first time in my life I feel comfortable saying that I don’t know what isn’t working and trusting my team to reach out and ask for their help and consultation. 

Having this kind of open atmosphere helps neurodivergent people prevent burnout, indifference, and other obstacles. 

It only takes a friendly conversation to hump over the bump most of the time. Noise-canceling headphones and dimmer lights are almost necessary, too.

8. Why did you decide to be transparent and tell us your story?

I’ve never done this before with people from work. I’m doing this now because I want my teammates to know who I am. 

I know that many people don’t like talking about themselves in this way at work, but I’m not like that - I want to connect. I don’t want this job to be just work. I want to trust my team and what we do to be good at it and stay motivated. 

I want all of us to help and support each other to become more successful and thrive as a team. 

I believe it all comes with understanding and acceptance. 

9. What kind of behavior from your teammates would you find inconsiderate?

When a colleague tells me about a problem or a specific situation just to vent, my instant reaction is to try to solve the problem. 

On many occasions, people get frustrated with me because they just need me to hear them out and empathize with them, but that’s not the first response they’d get from my side.

If they directly told me what they need from me beforehand, it would be much more helpful for us to have pleasant conversations and share our experiences.

It is particularly irritating when people tell me how to be more organized and share their opinion. 

The problem with ADHD is that I need to develop a system that works for me.

I always prefer straightforward questions rather than judgment.   

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