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Leanne Maskell

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Why ADHD coaching can create a more inclusive workplace

This Neurodiversity Celebration Week ADHD coach, Leanne Maskell shares ways that organisations can create a more inclusive workplace for neurodiverse people.
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ADHD Coaching isn’t a traditional workplace skill, but in an attention economy, it’s quickly becoming one of the most coveted. Diagnosis rates are skyrocketing, alongside conversations about how to best support employees navigating ADHD at work. So are employment tribunal cases, with a 30% increase in those relating to discrimination and neurodiverse conditions.

As an ADHD Coach, I’m constantly training organisations on effectively having these conversations. The ability to do so not only levels the playing field for people with disabilities but also allows everybody to reach their full potential as they are, creating a more inclusive workplace for all.

As a society, we are relearning what ADHD is and how it can appear in adults, especially those traditionally underrepresented, such as women and girls

ADHD coaching is a collaborative process through an ADHD-informed lens, moving people forward with actions to achieve tangible results. It involves generic coaching skills of active listening and curious questioning, but with a unique understanding of how the executive functioning impact of ADHD can influence these conversations. Here’s how to roll it out across your organisation:

1. ADHD training

Employers don’t need to be experts in ADHD, but accessing training can provide much-needed expertise into the realities of what this means. As ADHD has only been recognised in adults since 2008, many are now discovering they’ve had a lifelong disability on a mass scale.

As a society, we are relearning what ADHD is and how it can appear in adults, especially those traditionally underrepresented, such as women and girls. Organisation-wide education can be extremely beneficial to understand the basics and relevant signposting to additional support.

2. Understand Access to Work

The Government can provide funding via Access to Work for ADHD training, alongside support such as software, ADHD Coaching, and Support Workers to help with administration. Despite this scheme being available to anybody with a health condition that impacts them at work, it is used by less than 1% of eligible people.

Although waiting times can be long, and the procedures can be bureaucratic and un-ADHD-friendly, this is an incredible source of support for employers. By becoming familiar with the processes, you can help your employees with applications and beyond.

3. Establish policies and procedures

As an organisation, it is important to make policies as accessible as possible to ensure they are used. Having a neurodiversity, disability, or reasonable adjustments policy in place means that ADHD employees feel confident in disclosing their ADHD and seeking support at work.

By centralising your processes, such as by having identifiable contacts who can offer ADHD coaching and support, you can make these as inclusive and effective as possible.

4. Have compassionate, curious, and collaborative conversations

Talking about ADHD at work can be extremely challenging for everybody involved. By developing coaching skills, such as the ability to listen without offering advice, alongside having an ADHD education, you can coach employees to have these conversations with an ADHD lens.

Simply having a template of exploratory questions to use for such conversations can help guide everybody towards action. Understanding where extra reassurance is needed enables employees to feel secure and supported whilst figuring out what support may work best for them. ADHD Coaches are famed for ‘just getting it’ – but there’s no reason you can’t too.

The ability to filter conversations to focus on relevant challenges, whilst signposting towards relevant support, is a crucial skill for employers

5. Provide actions and accountability

ADHD coaching is highly effective because it’s rooted in action and tangibility, which is great for brains seeking dopamine. Having conversations through the lens of ADHD coaching enables SMART actions to be established and implemented, with extra accountability for follow-through.

This looks like directing a conversation towards an actionable goal, instead of having meetings to organise meetings. Employees with ADHD may feel highly anxious about seeking support at work, but understanding how to break down processes into bite-sized chunks with expected timeframes can be incredibly effective.

6. Set boundaries

ADHD coaching is not therapy, but having the skills to draw lines between mental health support and actionable goals compassionately is key for employers.

Employers grappling with people seeking ADHD assessments or starting medication may experience difficulties in communicating where their responsibility lies, but having ADHD coaching skills enables them to do this whilst focusing on the challenges a person is experiencing at work.

The ability to filter conversations to focus on relevant challenges, whilst signposting towards relevant support, is a crucial skill for employers who may feel overwhelmed by conversations about medical issues. It’s important to be able to do this both clearly and kindly, as employees may be severely struggling with little means of support elsewhere.

7. Make it accessible

There’s no need to train your entire organisation to be ADHD coaches, but having processes to be able to replicate your ADHD coaching skills to relevant people as needed is extremely valuable. For example, by training the manager of an employee disclosing their ADHD to confidently understand how to most effectively support and harness their ADHD at work.

If one person within an organisation is trained in ADHD coaching, they can help others to do the same. Having an accessible way of replicating this has enormous potential to mitigate serious challenges and foster an inclusive, supportive culture.

8. Communicate effectively

Ultimately, ADHD coaching is about communication. Being able to communicate with an employee navigating the process in a ‘human to human’ way, as opposed to a systemised, bureaucratic way, is fundamental to helping them reach their full potential at work.

ADHD coaches may input their own experiences into coaching to relate to their clients

In the workplace, this often comes down to vulnerability. Being upfront with your employees about how you’re there to listen and understand what ADHD means for them, instead of assuming you have the answers, takes courage.

In this podcast, a leader explained how being open about her challenges with mental health at work encouraged employees to do the same. Where relevant, ADHD coaches may input their own experiences into coaching to relate to their clients, and empowering your employees to do the same helps everybody to level up.

Interested in this topic? Read Essential tools to help those with ADHD in the workplace.

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