Team Strategies
Sun Aug 13 2023

Is A Neurodiverse Team Member Burnt Out?

Identify the signs of burnout within your neurodiverse and ADHD team and discover support strategies to create a positive work environment.

Hey You!  

As you lead diverse teams, it's essential to recognise the signs of burnout, especially among your neurodiverse team members. Individuals with ADHD, in particular, can be more susceptible to burnout due to their unique strengths and challenges.  Recent research shows that burnout is at an all time high, globally, so this isn’t just a neurodiversity issue.  This is a people in organisations issue.  

Let’s explore why your ADHD team members may experience burnout and I’ll give you some practical strategies to support them effectively.

What might cause burnout in ADHD team members:

  • Hyperfocus and Intense Drive: Your neurodiverse team members with ADHD possess the incredible superpower of hyperfocus—a state of intense concentration on a specific task or activity. However, this intense drive can lead to burnout as they immerse themselves deeply in their work, often neglecting breaks, self-care, and work-life balance.
  • Time Management Challenges: Time management can be a significant hurdle for individuals with ADHD. They may struggle with estimating time accurately, setting realistic goals, and prioritizing tasks effectively. This difficulty can lead to overcommitment, excessive workload, and an increased risk of burnout as they find themselves constantly racing against the clock.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: Many neurodiverse individuals, including those with ADHD, may experience heightened sensitivity to environmental stimuli. Overexposure to loud noises, bright lights, or overwhelming sensory inputs can drain their energy and contribute to burnout. Creating a supportive and sensory-friendly work environment is crucial to prevent burnout in these team members.
  • Perfectionism and Fear of Failure: Individuals with ADHD often possess a deep fear of failure and may strive for perfection in their work. They may hold themselves to unrealistic standards and exert excessive effort to meet those expectations. This relentless pursuit of perfection can result in chronic stress, self-doubt, and burnout as they exhaust themselves in an attempt to achieve unattainable goals.
  • Executive Functioning Challenges: ADHD can impact executive functioning skills, such as planning, organizing, and prioritizing. Team members may struggle with managing multiple tasks, meeting deadlines, and staying organized. These challenges can create a constant state of stress, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and prone to burnout

What might some of the signs of burnout be in your team members?

  • Increased Emotional Exhaustion: Watch for signs of emotional exhaustion, such as frequent irritability, mood swings, or emotional outbursts. Burnout can drain emotional reserves, leading to heightened emotional reactivity or a general sense of being overwhelmed.
  • Decreased Productivity and Performance: Notice any significant declines in productivity, missed deadlines, or a general decline in work quality. Burnout can lead to decreased motivation, focus, and attention, resulting in reduced output and performance.
  • Physical and Mental Fatigue: Pay attention to physical signs of burnout, such as chronic fatigue, frequent illnesses, or increased susceptibility to stress-related symptoms like headaches or muscle tension. Mentally, team members may exhibit signs of brain fog, difficulty concentrating, or memory lapses.
  • Withdrawal and Isolation: Keep an eye out for changes in social behavior, such as withdrawal from team activities, reduced participation in discussions, or a decline in team collaboration. Burnout can make individuals feel disconnected and disengaged from their work and colleagues.

What are some of the supporting strategies leaders can use with their team members:

  • Foster Open Communication: Create a safe and supportive environment where team members feel comfortable discussing their challenges, including feelings of burnout. Encourage open dialogue, actively listen, and offer empathy and understanding. Let team members know they can approach you to discuss their concerns without fear of judgment.
  • Encourage Work-Life Balance: Promote a healthy work-life balance by encouraging regular breaks, vacations, and personal time. Lead by example and demonstrate the importance of self-care. Encourage team members to disconnect from work after hours and support their efforts to maintain a fulfilling personal life outside of work.
  • Individualize Work Approaches: Recognize that each team member is unique and may require individualized support. Work with your neurodiverse team members to understand their strengths, challenges, and preferred work styles. Adapt tasks, deadlines, and assignments to align with their strengths and provide reasonable accommodations where necessary.
  • Promote Self-Care and Well-Being: Educate your team on the importance of self-care and well-being. Encourage healthy habits such as regular exercise, proper nutrition, and sufficient sleep. Provide resources on stress management, mindfulness techniques, and coping strategies. Consider implementing wellness programs or workshops to support your team's overall well-being.
  • Cultivate a Supportive Team Culture: Foster a supportive team culture that values collaboration, empathy, and understanding. Encourage team members to support one another, share experiences, and provide mutual assistance when needed. Celebrate achievements and recognize the collective efforts of the team to foster a positive and uplifting work environment.

So there you have it. Burnout is a complex issue that can be reasonably simple or complex to solve.  It’s important as leaders that your team’s wellbeing is a priority and that you are looking out for signs of burnout, especially in your neurodiverse team members.  Obviously, daily habits are key to long term resilience, but sometimes things have gone too far and you will need to jump in and provide immediate support. Having open communication and work approaches that foster self-care and support is key.  We all want the same thing - an environment where everyone flourishes and achieves their full potential.