Most adults who face challenges with their ADHD find it most daunting in the workplace. This is not to say it’s not an issue in other areas of their lives, but when you’re struggling to keep up at work, working long hours and suffering anxiety because you know you’re not delivering up to your potential, you rarely have the time or energy left over to worry about other areas of your life that might be falling apart.
ADHD at Work by the Numbers
A 2012 US economic impact study published in 2012 estimated that as much as 83% of the overall annual incremental costs of ADHD ($143 to $266 billion) were incurred by adults ($105B-$194B). Workplace issues, mostly due to income and productivity losses, represent the largest contributor of cost of adult ADHD on the US economy ($87B-$138B)1.
A 2006 study by the World Health Organization (WHO ) determined that untreated adults with ADHD lost an average of 22 days of productivity per year2. Adults with ADHD are eighteen times more likely to be disciplined at work for perceived “behavior problems” and are 60% more likely to lose their jobs3. To make matters worse, between 85 and 90% of adults with ADHD do not know they have it but are struggling at work4.
We can see the impact adult ADHD has on adults in the workplace, and not surprisingly, over a career, these events tend to hit you in the pocketbook as well. Other studies have shown that adults with ADHD earn, on average, $5,000-10,000 less annually than their colleagues without ADHD2.
There’s no question these statistics are alarming. Unfortunately, still today, adult ADHD is a taboo subject in the workplace. Many adults who need help fear divulging their ADHD to their employers for fear of reprisals.
Beyond Knowledge to Building Awareness
Research, education and advocacy have enabled great strides in what we know about ADHD in adults. For example, we now know that:
- When adults with ADHD work mostly in their areas of strengths, they succeed;
- With appropriate accommodations, adults with ADHDs overcome many of their challenges at work;
- With proper treatment (medications, ADHD coaching and therapy when necessary), adults with ADHD can be as productive as their non-ADHD colleagues.
While awareness about adult ADHD has certainly grown, we have a long way to go before we’re able to benefit ADHDers everywhere. One of the best ways we can extend the benefits of awareness is to equip ADHDers with the resources to help themselves. We want to help you advocate for yourself and work cooperatively with your employer to find solutions to your ADHD workplace challenges that work for both you and your employer. After all, everyone benefits.
Employers, insurance companies and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) have a lot to gain by helping employees with ADHD overcome their challenges with ADHD at work. We need to inform and sensitize these stakeholders of the great cost of keeping adult ADHD in the dark. We must remove the stigma of ADHD in the workplace, so employers, insurance companies and EAPs recognize the return on investment of providing employees with accommodations, ADHD-friendly training and coaching to overcome ADHD challenges.
In the end, we all win when we empower adults with ADHD to tap into your strengths, talents and passions so you can make your biggest contribution in your workplace and in the world.
ADDA’s Workplace Issues Committee
What we know now is, while there is still a lot that remains to be done in overcoming workplace issues for adults with ADHD, we’ve made a lot of progress and the steps we’ve taken combined with the results of our research have given us the confidence that there are actions we can take that will make things even better.
Since its rebirth in 2013, your Workplace Committee has been hard at work with the following projects:
- Creation of a presentation targeting employers to build awareness of ADHD in the workplace
- Creation and delivery of a workshop on Managing ADHD in the Workplace.
- Creation of a database of knowledge for employees with ADHD and for employers (managers and HR) in preparation for the launch of a Workplace Website in 2015, including a databank of videos of workplace experts.
- Launch of a survey: Did you disclose your ADHD at work?
- Regular contribution to the ADDA newsletter.
- Partnering with organizations like the U.S. Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology, an initiative to facilitate and promote the use of accessible technology in hiring, employment, retention and career advancement of individuals with disabilities
There are still many projects we are eager to develop:
- Partnering with business organizations to help build awareness on work-related issues.
- Disseminate the new presentation through different channels.
- Updating an information brochure for HR
- Creation of an online training program for HR and managers
- Doshi, A.D., Hodgkins, P., Kahle, J., Sikirica, V., Cangelosi, M.J., Setyawan, J., Erder, M.H., Neumann, P.J. (2012). Economic Impact of Childhood and Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in the United States. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(10), Oct 2012
- Hilton MF, et al. “The Association Between Mental Disorders and Productivity in Treated and Untreated Employees,” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (Sept. 2009): Vol. 51, No. 9, pp. 996–1003.
- Barkley, R., Murphy, K., Fischer, M. (2008). ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says. New York, Guilford Press (UMASS Study p. 279)
- Barkley, R., Murphy, K., Fischer, M. (2008). ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says. New York, Guilford Press (Milwaukee Study p. 351)