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  • Saskia Müller

You Deserve to be Supported at Work

Adults are usually diagnosed with autism and/or ADHD after burning out. They've often had to operate at an effort level of 500% throughout childhood and exams, and just assumed everyone else had to work as they did.

ADHD wasn't even able to be diagnosed in adults until 2008, and as it impacts approximately 5% of the population, imagine how many thousands of adults have simply had to 'cope' throughout their life.

I was diagnosed in a similar way, after burning out from studying my GCSEs. Getting the validation that my suffering was real meant that I was able to stop beating myself up, and slowly figure out what I needed.

I was 15, and count myself extremely lucky.

I entered the 9-5 working world with more awareness of my own brain and was able to ask for help.

Most adults diagnosed later in life are not so fortunate. As a blogger, I now speak to people on a daily basis who have been diagnosed after years of burning themselves out at work. I understand how challenging it must feel to suddenly feel as though you need to 'come out' with this new part of your identity.

Employees tell me it's different for new recruits, where disability is being spoken about more openly. Others say their employer has simply dropped disability D&I measures from their targets, because it's so hard to measure.

Just because something might seem invisible, doesn't mean it's not there. A diagnosis like this can be earth-shattering - especially if you've lived a certain way for decades, without realising that wasn't 'normal'. How do you suddenly speak about this in a professional context, when you've seemingly been able to do your job just fine from the outside for years? What would it feel like to be yourself at work?

Employers should have policies related to reasonable adjustments, neurodiversity, and/or disability - but many don't.

Here's some pointers to get started, if not:

  • Employers have a legal duty to make accommodations at work to support their employees with disabilities impacting their ability to do their day-to-day job as their colleagues are able to. This is when they first become aware that there might be a disability at play.

  • Autism and ADHD can be a disability in this context. To be diagnosed, you have to have 2 or more areas of your life that are severely impacted over a long period of time - and work is often one of them.

  • There should be clear ways for employees to understand who to speak to about this, in a confidential and supportive way. Employers could boost this significantly if they indicated an independent person to speak to on an informal and confidential basis, such as a HR representative.

  • People may often not know what support could help them at work, and so reasonable adjustments should be part of an ongoing conversation between an employer/ee

  • Employees cannot be treated negatively as a result of disclosing their disability at work, or asking for help with it. Providing reasonable adjustments is NOT preferential treatment, but simply helping them to operate on the same level as other colleagues.

  • Access to Work is Government funding that can help pay for workplace accommodations, including ADHD Coaching for employees & managers, & ADHD awareness training.

The point of this isn't just for employers to meet their legal duties. When people are supported to be themselves at work, they are much happier, making companies far more successful overall. Everybody deserves to be accepted at work for who they are.

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