Autistic and ADHD people have long struggled in the workplace.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2021 only 29% of autistic people in the UK between 16-64 years old were employed (though of course, this is out of those recognised as autistic). Employees with ADHD are twice as likely to lose their job compared to employees without ADHD. A survey found that 65% of neurodivergent employees believed that disclosing their neurodivergence would result in discrimination from management, and 55% worried about stigma from colleagues.

So this is a topic we need to talk about.

Like with my first two posts in this series – ‘Challenges Autistic People and ADHDers Face in Therapy and What Can Help’ and ‘Challenges Autistic and ADHD Children Face at School and What Can Help’, I asked autistic people and ADHDers about the challenges they face at work, and what helps or would help them to manage. I received over 1500 replies on Instagram and Twitter (or X).

These are the most common challenges that autistic and ADHD people reported they face at work, in order of how common they were.

I am not surprised that navigating colleague relationships, the sensory environment and unclear instructions/communication took the top three places. I have found these tricky. I have been in my job for eighteen months in the same small team, and only recently have I begun to be able to stop overthinking colleague relationships and interactions as much! But anxiety, overthinking, the sensory environment and processing information are things that affect me on a daily basis.

There are things that can help us. When reasonable adjustments are made (which employers have a duty to make under The Equality Act 2010), neurodivergent employees are far less likely to leave their job. There is a range of benefits of a neurodiverse workforce. In this survey, over 80% of neurodivergent employees and their colleagues reported their ability to hyperfocus, 78% creativity, 75% innovative thinking, 71% detail processing and 64% authenticity at work. Yet, all of the neurodivergent employees reported poor wellbeing and only 50% felt calm and relaxed. This isn’t good enough. We deserve to be given the chance to thrive.

I asked autistic and ADHD people to share what would help them to manage at work. These were the most common responses.

For me, the balance of working from home and the office helps me to manage. There is no way I could be in the office five days a week. I work four days – generally two days in the office and two days at home. This helps me manage my energy levels, as my social battery isn’t as depleted, I can sleep longer on work from home days, and I can take breaks under my weighted blanket! At the same time, I like the routine and change of scenery of going into the office. I prefer seeing my colleagues face to face than through a screen. It motivates me as it gets me into ‘work mode’ which I can then channel the rest of the week! My loop earplugs are a life-saver though!

Remember – what helps each person will be different. It’s so important to be person-centred and talk through what would help each individual.

Access to Work is vital to know about, for both employers and disabled employees. This is a government scheme to help disabled people to start and stay in work. It can fund things like ADHD coaching, which has been amazing for me and helped me to learn strategies to manage at work. My brilliant coach is Leanne Maskell from ADHD Works. Her book ‘ADHD Works at Work’ is a great guide.

Let’s focus on creating neurodivergent-friendly workplaces, where everyone can be supported to thrive.


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