It’s only 10am and already I’ve made four coffees, done the laundry, Whatsapped memes and cleaned my room. I’ve technically been at work since 8 am but my ADHD brain is determined not to focus on my writing so I’m procrastinating instead.
Luckily, as I work from home, I have the freedom to have days where I struggle with my focus or where I am so focused I forget to eat or move. My ADHD means there is no in-between for me and I cannot control when this happens or regulate it.
In theory, working from home shouldn’t work for me because of my ADHD, but adapting to home-working has actually been a godsend. When the pandemic closed offices and sent us all to work from our couches, it became clear that this wasn’t just a temporary fix for me. Home-working has been amazing for those of us in creative roles or those who have ADHD - or both! - and highlights how office rigidity doesn’t work for us.
I’ve never been so productive.
There are so many ways in which home working has made work life so much easier for my ADHD self, but one of the biggest ways is being able to take breaks when I need to rather than when I’m told to, alongside the ability to hide when I get overwhelmed.
How creatives with ADHD make it work
Image by Talenthouse Creative Kostis Pavlou
Bethany Martin works in admin but she has a creative part-time role. She is currently on a hybrid system where she doesn’t have to go into the office every day. She struggles with feeling like her symptoms of ADHD are watched or judged by others in offices. This is common for ADHD folk who learn to mask their symptoms to try and ‘fit in’ with office culture, often leaving us exhausted or burned out.
“My managers have been good about it as they prefer we go in at least once a month,” says Becky. “Some days I can’t face [going to the office]. I have a specific thing with my ADHD where I get uncomfortable if I think I’m being watched. I can’t work if I’m surrounded by people who are judging what I’m doing. It’s much nicer to be working alone.”
She added: “I wanted to work from home for ages but it wasn’t an option so I just did the five days. Over time, I got burned out and struggled to look after myself but I just accepted it. Working from home is less physically and mentally draining.”
Image by Talenthouse Creative Ludmila Kovalenko
One issue with working from home is the lack of social interaction which can be a problem for ADHD people who need the stimulation. While we are all social creatures who need interaction, ADHD-ers struggle with low levels of dopamine - a neurotransmitter that influences your mood and feelings of reward. One quick fix for this is social interaction, but it comes at the cost of being extra draining or contributing to burnout. Fun!
Michelle Minnikin is an Organizational Psychologist and Coach. She has ADHD herself and is used to advising clients who also have the condition.
“It’s the focus and distractions that are some of the more difficult things for ADHD people working from home. I have to be isolated when I work. When I was working in open-plan offices, it was absolute torture because you have human distractions, light, noise and temperature. At home, you have the benefit of hiding away and being on your own,” she said.
Juliet Landau-Pope is a Productivity Coach. She stressed the importance of being positive when it comes to ADHD, and less self-critical. She says we need to understand how to harness our ‘superpower.’
Image by Talenthouse Creative Tolga Tarhan
“You need to look back on what you have achieved and give yourself credit for what you’ve done. We tend to focus on what we haven’t done rather than what we have and people with ADHD can be very self-critical or anxious. It’s not something you should dread or be daunted by because there are ways of managing it. It can be turned into a positive thing and the energy harnessed. Some people regard it as a superpower because it enables them to do things they couldn’t do if their brains were wired differently.”
Steps you can take if you're struggling to focus
Juliet believes it's about breaking up the day and scheduling.
“Research shows that doing exercise at the beginning of the day can help. It’s a bit of a buffer before you start your workday where you can clear your mind and focus. The Pomodoro method is very useful for anyone who needs to concentrate; you work for a [set amount of] minutes and then take a short break. If you know you have a break coming up then it’s easier to concentrate,” she said.
“Planning and prioritizing can also be helpful. It can help to make yourself accountable by telling others what you are going to do and when. It’s much more likely that you will be able to motivate yourself to do it.”
Image by Talenthouse Creative Daft Dysnomia
Michelle believes that we need to start making our work lives more personalized by asking for what we need and that support is essential.
“Speak to people and find an ADHD group that you can join. There is nothing worse than struggling and ruminating on that - interrupt that pattern by speaking to someone. The most important thing is to understand what your body is trying to tell you in that rest and play are as important as being productive,” she said.
“People are asking for help or individualizing their workplaces. When a flower fails to bloom, you don’t blame the flower - you change the environment. We are full of wonderful potential but people can struggle if they haven’t found the right environment or asked for the right support. It takes trial and error to get it right as well as dignity and respect.”