Working From Home When You Have ADHD

Sometimes, remote work can be a good thing for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For one thing, there are no noisy cubicle mates or shoulder-tapping co-workers to distract you.

But to get your work done at home, you need to have good focus, organization, and time management skills. All of these may be in short supply if you have ADHD.

A structured workday, plus motivation and support from your co-workers and boss, can help make up for these shortfalls in the office. At home, you're on your own. That means you need to learn how to self-direct and self-motivate.

Here are some tips to help you reduce distractions and stay on task while you telework.

Set Up a Work-Friendly Space

Even if you don't have children or pets to interrupt your workday, your home teems with distractions. There are TV sets with your favorite shows waiting, cellphones with texts from your friends, and social media sites to explore.

To avoid these minefields, set up your office in the quietest part of your home. Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your office door. Let your family or roommates know what times are off-limits for them to visit. If background noise helps you focus, put on soft music or white noise, or turn on a fan.

Clear the clutter from your desk. A clean desk will help make you more productive.

Consider getting a standing desk, or make one by putting your laptop on top of a bookcase or cabinet. When you stand while you work, you avoid some of the health risks of sitting all day. Standing may also help you to focus on your tasks.

Stick to a Schedule

Even though you're not in the office, don't abandon your work schedule. You might be able to push your start time later if you tend to have more energy at, say, 10 a.m. than at 9. But try to start work at the same time each day, just like you'd do at the office.

Keep taking your ADHD medicine as your doctor prescribed. If you still have a busy workload, this is not the time to take a medication vacation.

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Though you could stay in your PJs all day, get dressed each morning. It will put you into the right frame of mind for work. Plus, you'll look more professional on video conference calls.

Schedule time into each day for lunch and breaks. Add a few minutes for a walk outside or some other form of exercise after lunch to give your mind a reset.

Your daily end time is important, too. It gives you a boundary between your job and your home life. That line can get blurred when you work from home.

Use Tools to Plan and Organize

The simplest way to stay organized is with an old-fashioned daily to-do list. Or put sticky notes on your laptop to remind you of what you need to get done. Higher-tech options include apps and tools available on your smartphone and computer.

Use the calendar software on your computer and smartphone to help you remember meetings and deadlines. Set alarms to go off an hour or two before each event, to give you time to prepare. Then set another alarm to go off 15 minutes beforehand. You'll be ready to go, and you won't miss a single meeting.

Look over your daily and weekly calendars every morning when you get to your desk. Then write your to-do list for the day. Break it up into chunks you can manage. Update your list at the end of the day.

If you often surf social media and the web when you're supposed to be working, use an app like RescueTime or SelfControl to track or block these distractions.

Stay in Touch

You can still stay connected when you're not physically in the office. Reach out to your manager and co-workers with regular calls, video conferences, emails, and texts. This will help you stay in sync with your team and will keep you from feeling isolated.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on April 22, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Attention Deficit Disorder Association: "Succeeding With a Lack of Structure: Tips for Working on Your Own (Part 2 and Part 3)," "Work From Home," "Medication Management."

CHADD: "Suddenly Working from Home," "White Noise for Staying on Track."

Gallup: "U.S. Workers Discovering Affinity for Remote Work."

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: "Taking a Stand: The Effects of Standing Desks on Task Performance and Engagement."

Journal of Physical Activity & Health: "Energy Expenditure During Acute Periods of Sitting, Standing, and Walking."

Mayo Clinic: "Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Symptoms & causes."

The A.D.D. Resource Center: "How to Be More Productive When Working From Home."

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