ADHD in the Workplace: How to Create an Inclusive Neurodiverse Business


eanne Maskell struggled in class. Absorbing information, listening, and sitting quietly for long periods of time was difficult. But when exam season arrived, she sailed with straight aces. The educators didn’t know what to think – a college economics professor stopped her in front of the other students and asked her how she managed to cheat so convincingly.

“” Everyone was really shocked by my grades. They were like ‘oh, we thought you were stupid,'” she said. “The thing is, I was able to prepare the month before by focusing on hyper and teaching myself what I needed to know.”

Maskell discovered she was neurodivergent years later when a doctor told her she had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For her, that means things like passing an exam, working in law, or writing a book (she’s written two so far) are easy. But food shopping is nearly impossible.

When it comes to the sphere of work in the 2020s, there seems to be a greater awareness of how neurodiversity – which can include autism, ADHD, ADD, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia – affects people. Very few leaders create conditions that allow neurodivergent people to thrive. Even fewer realize that it will lead to a serious business advantage.

Today, Maskell runs ADHD Works, a company that helps people with ADHD maximize their strengths. She educates leaders on how they can improve the lives of teams with the disease, and her book, ADHD: understanding step by step is a practical toolkit for living better with ADHD.

Leaders eager to create a more inclusive workplace would do well to learn from companies that have neurodiverse founders. Roei Samuel is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and startup mentor. He started his first business – RealSport – while at university and then sold it in a multi-million pound deal. Today, he is CEO of Connectd, a platform that connects entrepreneurs with investors and non-executive directors. He credits his successes to the boundless enthusiasm his ADHD provides. “Three years ago, Connectd was just me,” he says. “He developed through relentless training. With neurodiversity, the balance doesn’t seem to stand still – I’m not comfortable in my own skin unless I’m going a hundred miles an hour.

Samuel designed Connectd’s culture to play on the abilities of neurodiverse teams, and in doing so, he discovered a startling fact. Work environments that maximize the potential of neurodiverse employees do the same for neurotypical people. “Our office is about 80% relaxation space,” says Samuel. “If you want to work between 5 a.m. and 1 p.m., you can. Here’s the thing: we found that neurotypical people also work that way. We have a 96% employee retention rate. I think designing work this way will be crucial in retaining Gen Z teams.”

Removing the yoke of traditional office life is crucial for neurodiverse teams, but so is rethinking how people communicate in meetings. Sascha Evans is the co-founder of Uncommon, a digital platform that helps neurodiverse students thrive in education. She borrows techniques from her theater training to make meetings more productive, creative, and inclusive (her team is also neurodiverse). “When you improvise in theater, you have to create a space that is free from inhibitions, criticism or mockery,” she says. “Try not to say no to an idea, even if it doesn’t make sense at first. Instead, let the thoughts race until you find the right solution or course of action.

Employers still have a long way to go to unlock the potential of neurodiverse teams. Taking deliberate steps to achieve this will make organizations kinder and more inclusive, but also more creative, innovative and resilient.

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