Restless @ work

Concentration level a continual issue? ADD may be the cause

Posted: Monday, October 10, 2005

In today's work environment, employees are perpetually in multi-tasking mode and have little time for vacation. That's why it's not unusual for workers to lose focus on the task at hand. But where is the line drawn between too many distractions and attention deficit disorder?

John Putzier, author of "Weirdos in the Workplace: The New Normal - Thriving in the Age of the Individual" (Financial Times Prentice Hall, $17.95) believes the technology we use to make life easier is really hindering workers' abilities to get things done.

"The modern workplace, combined with current technology, provides ripe soil for what may appear to be ADD symptoms," he explains. "Cubicle life plus cell phones, Blackberries, gaming and other non-work-related computer activity and trying to have a life on the side, equals ADD."

Signs of ADD

Symptoms that are commonly associated with attention deficit disorder consist of lack of focus, disorganization, restlessness, difficulty finishing projects and losing things, according to Dr. Belisa Vranich, relationships editor for Men's Fitness and a clinical psychologist based in New York City.

"These symptoms interfere with success at work - time management problems and organization are the most common problems," she says. "However, some adults with ADD have compensated by structuring their day and are extremely organized."

Such is the case with Claire Ginn, junior publicist for Wasabi Publicity Inc. in Ashville, N.C. Diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder when she was in elementary school, Ginn regularly takes medication for ADD.

"There are actually so many benefits of having it," she explains. "For what I do, it's good. My job is telling stories to the media - a lot of people with ADD can just talk and talk for hours, which can be a problem - but at the same time, when your job is talking, you're great at it."

Ginn adds that while she medicates for ADD, it does not completely rid her of symptoms, which is why she says it's important to have an understanding group of co-workers as a support system. Though telling an employer about the disease can be hard, doing so can benefit everyone involved.

Check your surroundings

If you're concerned about concentrating at work, Vranich recommends paying attention to your work environment and minimizing distractions.

"Assess your surroundings," she suggests. "If you have the TV on in the background, music from the office next door, haven't had water in hours, and are worried about something at home, it may be difficult to concentrate. Simplify your surroundings as much as possible, and be creative - you may realize that dead silence isn't good for you but white noise is."

Unique approach

Employers should understand the disorder in order to accommodate their employees' needs, says Joshua Estrin, president and CEO of Concepts in Success, a business development company based in Plantation, Fla.

"Professionals need to be aware of how the disorder manifests in the workplace," he says. "Educating yourself as well as your managers and employees who may have ADD and not know it, about the symptoms could lead to accurate diagnosis and treatment, and therefore, higher productivity."

If you are truly concerned, it's always wise to consult with your doctor. This is important, particularly if your inability to concentrate is coupled with feelings of sadness and tearfulness or changes in appetite and sleep - those are signs of depression, says Vranich.

Diagnosing ADD is as simple as taking a test provided by your doctor, she says.

- Lisa Radke

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