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People may choose to use medication to manage ADHD presentations. While the UK is in the middle of a national ADHD medication shortage, which is likely to continue until at least December 2023, people are having real difficulty accessing their prescribed medication to help them manage their presentations.
In the meantime, people with ADHD are resorting to either rationing their medication to make it last as long as possible or seeking out alternative solutions to medication, whether in the short or long term.
It’s very likely that we’ve all worked with colleagues who have ADHD, so this is something that’ll impact us all while we’re at work. All of us should come together to support our colleagues the same as we would for anyone who’s struggling. Doing this’ll have a hugely positive effect on the workplace culture and the desire for colleagues to continue working for that employer and at that workplace.
So, what could colleagues and managers do to support colleagues impacted by the national medication shortage?
Patience, flexibility and understanding
This is a worrying time for our colleagues who have ADHD and they’ll likely be feeling anxious and worried about their performance, contributions and managing their presentations at this time.
The first thing colleagues and managers should do is be patient, flexible and communicative. We should encourage our colleagues to discuss their ADHD and their challenges at work, including access to medication. This’ll help everyone better understand their colleague’s needs and concerns.
As ADHD can affect a colleague’s focus and organisation, if they’re struggling due to the medication shortage, be patient and flexible with expectations − including deadlines wherever possible. Setting clearly defined deadlines and priorities with the colleague or discussing what can be provided to help them in this way (such as visual aids or clear priorities lists that are easy to see in the office) can help that colleague stay on top of their responsibilities at work.
Read more with this LCN Says: ‘Removing barriers for ADHD lawyers’.
In any case, the colleague should be front and centre when strategies and plans are put in place to help them during this time. Support, understanding and patience can help to reduce anxiety and make the colleague feel safe and supported.
Of course, this is only possible if the workplace culture is such that colleagues are psychologically safe to discuss such personal things. Not everyone feels this way, so it’s important that the workplace culture is there first.
Reasonable adjustments can be requested at any point in the employment relationship to support disabled colleagues at work and in applications and interviews.
One challenge of ADHD is regulating focus and attention so an environment that has as few distractions as possible can be helpful during this time. This could take the form of a work area in a quiet, well-organised part of the office away from distracting features such as printers, copiers, high-traffic areas, etc. Alternatively, ask your colleague how they’d like to optimise their workspace.
Another such adjustment could be extra breaks if that colleague is getting overwhelmed or losing focus. This could be a simple ‘coffee break’; just something that gives them the chance to step away and try to refocus before starting again.
The importance of self-care
(Note to self: take your own advice!)
Managing our neurodivergence and the challenges that come with it can be physically and psychologically draining. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve come home after a full day’s intense work and completely crashed!
Encourage your colleague to look after themself. This includes encouraging and reminding them to get enough sleep, eat well, exercise in whatever form works for them, engage in their hobbies and interests, or even remind them to use their allotted annual leave.
Discover more about neurodiversity in the workplace with ‘What is neurodiversity at work?’.
If they want you as part of their self-care too, then great. Maybe this could be coming to you for help in accessing alternative solutions to medication or alternative ADHD medications in the shorter term. It could be that this process is overwhelming for them or that they can’t focus to do it, so having someone help them with alternative options, either for medication or other solutions, is important so they don’t feel isolated or overwhelmed.
A positive and inclusive workplace culture is essential for anyone to be at their best at work. It’s up to everyone to contribute to this, not just management.
Neurodiversity in law and legal workplaces has been talked about for at least the last couple of years now. I’m thankful to have played a small part in advocating for more meaningful inclusion and welcoming of neurodivergent lawyers at all career stages. I think it’s important to help other neurodivergent lawyers take pride in who they’re (you’re more interesting and unique than you probably give yourself credit for!).
A workplace where individual differences are celebrated and accommodated, and where colleagues are properly supported and encouraged to be the best versions of themselves benefits everyone – not just those who’re neurodiverse.
It’s vital that everyone understands the importance of meaningful inclusion and how it contributes to a positive workplace culture for everyone. This includes education, awareness training and a real understanding of how our brains work. The best people to learn this from is us. Our lived experiences help shape the workplace to better include us and to understand what we do and don’t want out of a workplace, a manager and colleagues. This is a stressful and uncertain time for so many. Therefore, it’s important that we’re all even more kind, patient and supportive of neurodivergent colleagues right now.