How to make your work-from-home space more ADHD-friendly

BY Leanne Maskell

27th Sep 2023 Health

4 min read

How to make your work-from-home space more ADHD-friendly
If you have ADHD, Leanne Maskell advises how you can make your work-from-home space more suitable for to your needs by offering ways to work with your ADHD brain, not against it, in her book ADHD Works at Work
Diagnosed with ADHD at 25 years old, Leanne Maskell uses her own experience of neurodivergence, as well as her experience in various mental health sectors to help others navigate their ADHD journey. 

Planting yourself in the right environment 

Woman looking glumly at her laptop at a desk
The most important thing to consider as an ADHD-er is your environment.  
Imagine a struggling house plant: we wouldn’t throw it out, but would work with it to find the right environment for it to thrive, such as by adjusting the light, soil, or water.
You are no different. Having ADHD can feel like having a racing car brain with bicycle brakes—so if you’re in an environment with lots of country lanes, things will be much harder than if you were on the motorway!
Working from home is a common "reasonable adjustment" made by employers to support people with ADHD, as being held to neurotypical standards of working in distraction-filled offices may be extremely difficult for somebody prone to distraction. 
"Working from home is a common 'reasonable adjustment' made by employers to support people with ADHD"
However, as ADHD is associated with a 30 per cent developmental delay in executive functioning skills such as self-awareness, we may be unaware of how much we're taking on and work too much from home. This can lead us to become "human doings" instead of human beings—so it’s important to get the balance right.
Ultimately, if you’ve met one person with ADHD, you’ve met one person with ADHD—it manifests differently for everybody, and as a highly situational condition, it’s important to regularly reassess our day to day environments.
Here’s six tips to make your work from home space more ADHD-friendly:

1. Establish a routine

Leanne Maskell
Routines are extremely important for ADHD-ers. Having simple daily actions on "autopilot" brings structure to an otherwise potentially unstructured day, without ‘getting ready’ and commuting time.
It’s important to find the right routine for you, that’s realistically achievable, sustainable, and makes you feel grounded. Any routines you can incorporate before looking at your phone in the morning are extra-helpful, as time for yourself before getting sucked into the vortex of distractions!

2. Set boundaries—in space and time

During the pandemic, I’d often wake up, turn my laptop on and work from bed for the whole day until going to sleep. This is an example of terrible boundaries!
Having a space dedicated to work is extremely important for our non-linear minds to shift gears, even if this is just a specific desk where you keep your laptop. It’s important to have appropriate desks, chairs and screens to look after your body!
"Having a space dedicated to work is extremely important for our non-linear minds to shift gears"
Try to leave your work in that area, including by deleting email apps from your phone, so you can’t work whilst brushing your teeth or cooking! Setting and sticking to working hours are vitally important, as we can easily fall into hyper-focus mode without realising the time.

3. Use visual aids 

A woman pulling a sticky note off of a wall calendar
As ADHD impacts our memory, visual reminders work really well to remind us of what we need to do. Having the freedom to set these up in our working from home space can also ignite our ADHD interest-based nervous system, thriving on dopamine and novelty.
Get creative with writing out your routines, boundaries or important "must do" tasks of the day on a whiteboard, have a wall calendar to time block your working hours (and breaks!), and have clocks everywhere!

4. Minimise distractions

ADHD-ers may experience "object permanence", where we may not consciously process mess around us—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us! Having a clean working environment to help us stay focused, such as by clearing our desk each morning (e.g into a washing basket—good hack!).
"Having a clean working environment to help us stay focused"
Our phones can also be major distractions, so try to put it out of sight, so it’s out of mind! Give helpful tools such as noise cancelling headphones, duplicates of chargers, and fidget toys clear "homes" within your space, such as certain drawers.

5. Prioritise your well-being

A couple batch cooking together
As our brains are constantly seeking stimulation, we may find "easy" tasks much more difficult than working. For example, we may struggle with cooking, eating, showering, going outside, exercising and so on.
This means we need to set up our environments to prioritise our health, making energy-draining decisions in advance. For example, by batch-cooking food on the weekend which can be easily heated up for lunch, and keeping bottles of water and snacks within easy reach.

6. Apply for Access to Work

The Government’s Access to Work scheme can fund up to £66,000 worth of support for each person with a health condition, including ADHD, to help them at work.
They’ll assess your working environment before recommending and funding support tailored to your needs, such as ADHD coaching, standing desks, electronic notebooks, and administrative assistants.
By regularly assessing your working from home space, you can create an environment that balances your super-whizzy brain with your overall health and happiness—both "now" and "not now!"
Leanne Maskell is an ADHD Coach, Director of ADHD Works and author of new book ADHD Works at Work
ADHD Works at Work Book Cover
Banner credit: JLco - Julia Amaral
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter