Executive Function Challenges are associated with many disabilities, such as ADHD, a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers can make small adjustments to support a worker’s needs reasonably. It is important to create an open line of communication that is safe and free of judgment so that employees feel comfortable asking for help and advice.
Encourage them to promote self-advocacy by identifying reasonable accommodations without feeling afraid to do so. For example, an employee may be afraid to ask for a quiet workspace or help to break down large jobs into smaller chunks. Most employers would be happy to make such a simple accommodation!
Here are some topics to discuss and common ways to manage some of the problems they may have:
Asking for help
We all need help from time to time, and it’s important not to be afraid to ask for it. When employees feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or have disruptive thoughts or behaviors, encourage them to seek advice right away to help overcome them.
Stress Management Techniques to Reduce Anxiety
Share ways to self-calm utilizing breathing techniques. The box breathing method is a common technique to calm people down and gain focus. The box breathing method consists of breathing in slowly for three counts, holding your breath for three counts, and then releasing your breath for three counts. Repeat for up to 10 minutes.
Dealing with Distraction
Does your company have an area that people who need a quiet space can go to? Encourage your employees to use that space if he/she needs help focusing without distractions.
Headphones can be a significant noise canceler and provide a physical reminder to concentrate. Using a fidget toy such as a fidget spinner or a rubric cube can also help with distractions since it has been proven that physical movement can help while trying to concentrate. Writing notes and doodling while in a meeting can also help employees pay attention.
Setting Timers for Motivation
Create a short goal and set a 10-minute timer. Have your employee commit to focusing on 1 task and accept whatever they accomplished. When the time is up, have them regroup and set another goal using the timer.
Encourage them to keep this up for as long as it takes to feel a sense of accomplishment.
I have seen clients use this method and after the first 10 minutes, find they have enough motivation to keep going and often end up in a hyper-focus mode and really accomplish a lot!
Limiting Cell Phone Distractions
People with ADHD have a hard time with transitions between tasks and the constant beep and pings of a phone will be highly distracting for them. It is important to discuss cell phone use and expectations to put it away while at work.
Exercising Strategy for the Restless
Does your company allow for short breaks for someone to walk around? Research shows that physical activity can help improve cognitive function and enhances confidence in problem-solving. It also increases testosterone which has been shown to lead to improvements in confidence, attention, and memory. Companies that promote exercise before work, at lunchtime, or after work normally receive excellent feedback from employees.
Providing Healthy and High-protein Snacks in The Break Room
Brain food is known to help with symptoms of ADHD, such as brain fog. It can ward off employee mood swings and sustain consistent energy levels throughout the workday.
The end goal is to promote a culture that is positive, cohesive, and genuine. It pays off to invest in your employees’ well-being to create a family atmosphere where they feel valued. The end result for your company will be a better output.
A well-thought-out program that implements these strategies should lay the groundwork for employees with disabilities. Not only will the company benefit, but also the employee with a structure, tools, and resources that will serve in other areas of their life as well.
You might just help more than the employee with executive function challenges
Since all employees can exhibit similar challenges experienced by someone with executive function challenges such as ADHD at different times of their lives, these strategies can have a positive effect on all employees within the company. By providing the structure and framework to handle executive function challenges for all, your team will have the knowledge and strategies to work through workplace challenges as they arise and feel connected to their workplace.
Michelle Raz, is a career specialist & coach, owner of Razcoaching.com, author of Happiness+Passion+Purpose and Co-founder of Thrivister.com, an academic coaching company for high school and college students. As a Board-Certified Coach, she uses her expertise with executive functioning challenges to help people find their purpose and success in the workplace through the lens of ADHD. She has been contributing her knowledge and expertise in this field since 2010.