Margaux Joffe, Global Neurodiversity Advocate and Founder of Kaleidoscope Society, discusses attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), neurodiversity, and what workers can do to empower themselves in their jobs and beyond. Margaux also shares ways workplaces can enhance inclusion for all employees and lists digital tools she finds useful as an entrepreneur.
Margaux Joffe: [00:00:00.32] I would invite companies to make sure disability is on the agenda. Make sure it’s part of DEI efforts. If you don’t have an accessibility team, make sure there’s someone in your company that, that is in charge and responsible for advancing disability inclusion. There’s things that are required by law under the Americans with Disabilities Act. That should not be the goal. That should be the starting point. I think it’s important that we have a mindset of going beyond compliance, because compliance is, is the bare minimum. Instead of asking ourselves, what is required by law or, you know, we have to provide these reasonable accommodations for employees because it’s required. Like, what if we start thinking about how can we create a workplace environment where everyone can thrive?
Intro: [00:00:51.59] Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrill, founder of Workology.com as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools and case studies for the business leader, HR, and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:01:18.15] This episode of the Workology podcast is part of our Future of Work series, which is powered by PEAT, the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology. PEAT works to start conversations around how emerging workplace technology trends are impacting people with disabilities. This podcast is powered by Ace the HR Exam and Upskill HR. These are two of the courses that we at Workology offer for HR certification prep and recertification for HR leaders. Before I introduce our guest for today, I do want to hear from you. Text the word podcast to (512) 548-3005. Ask questions, leave comments and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. Today I’m so excited to be joined by Margaux Joffe, a neurodiversity changemaker who is smashing stigma and shifting culture in order to create a more inclusive world for minds of all kinds. She’s formerly an award-winning producer in advertising and tech. She founded the Kaleidoscope Society for Women with ADHD after a late-in-life diagnosis at the age of 29. She went on to dispel stigma and advance inclusion in the workplace by helping Yahoo launch the technology industry’s first neurodiversity employee resource group, or ERG, in 2017. From there, she led disability inclusion strategy for Verizon, launching their first disability Advisory Board, as well as creating the Disability Collection Partnership with Getty Images and the National Disability Leadership Alliance to improve disability representation in the media. Margaux, I’m so excited. Welcome to the Workology podcast.
Margaux Jaffe: [00:03:00.07] Hi Jessica. Thanks for having me on the podcast. I’m excited to talk all things about ADHD, neurodiversity, and what we can do to empower ourselves at work and beyond.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:03:12.32] I’m so excited to have you. Can you talk to us a little bit about your background and how it led to the work that you do now?
Margaux Joffe: [00:03:20.33] Yeah. So, in the intro, you mentioned, you know, I got a life changing diagnosis of ADHD when I was 29 and it was like a light bulb moment for me because I finally had this understanding about my brain and how it worked differently. And I started to see how there was a lot of stigma and stereotypes out there, especially in the media, around ADHD and neurodiversity. And I felt like a calling to use my professional background in media production and public health to help other women with ADHD, try to dispel stigma and create community. So that’s really what led me to create Kaleidoscope Society, which at the time was the first of its kind content platform dedicated to celebrating the unique strengths of women with ADHD and providing resources. And even at that time, I was an advocate in the community in my free time, but I still wasn’t ready to disclose in my career because the stigma is so real in the workplace. And I was worried about how it might impact my ability to make a living, you know, at the end of the day. And I was, at the time, working in a manager role in tech in Silicon Valley at Yahoo! And, about a year into my time there, it became clear that I really wanted to see what I could do to dispel stigma in the workplace around mental health and neurodiversity and create a more inclusive culture.
Margaux Joffe: [00:04:59.91] Because I knew that there had to be other employees like me who had, whether it was ADHD or learning disabilities or autism or other type of non-apparent disabilities. And I really wanted to create community. I love connecting people, creating community, and that’s really what led to the neurodiversity ERG. And that was a really special experience, working with so many incredible employees to come together around creating a more inclusive culture. And fast forward, I won’t go through all the story because it’s going to start going on and on. But I think through all of that time and through being quote unquote, you know, out or public about my diagnosis in the workplace, I just had so many people coming to me in my DMs on LinkedIn or pulling me aside at work with questions about how to navigate work with ADHD, how to manage different aspects of it and I really saw a need and an opportunity to create a resource to help people learn more about ADHD in their career and how to work with their ADHD more easily at work. And that’s what led me to eventually leave my full-time job and work to create a professional development program for adults with ADHD.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:06:29.61] Also exciting and timely. I feel like there is so many conversations happening now about mental health and neurodiversity and ADHD. So, what a visionary that you were and making your workplace a better place for you and so many other people.
Margaux Joffe: [00:06:50.04] It’s interesting because, you know, like when I hear words like visionary or you’re so courageous or you’re so inspiring, like I don’t even really see it like that. I just, I’m a problem solver. I see something. I see where there’s an issue and I just take a step. And I think that that’s an opportunity that we all have, like wherever we are in our lives, like when we see something that’s not working, it doesn’t have to be a huge initiative or a global campaign. You know, I encourage everyone to think about how they can make a difference in their own life, and it can start with, it can start with a conversation. You know, like one conversation can, can save a life, can change a life. And I really believe that. So, anyway, tangent, back to, we can go back to your question. I forgot. Did you ask me a question or…
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:07:42.52] I haven’t. I haven’t asked yet. I haven’t asked yet. But it’s interesting that you say that you saw a problem and you presented a solution because I feel that way about a lot of the work I do myself. And I think that, that maybe that’s how true visionaries really are. So, you co-founded the Great ADHD Reset in 2021, and we’re going to link to the website in the show notes for everyone. But can you tell us about how the, what the program is and how it works?
Margaux Joffe: [00:08:12.55] Yeah. So the great ADHD Reset, it’s a nine-week professional development program for adults with ADHD, and it’s all about creating a supportive space for professionals with ADHD to learn about ADHD, to learn more about how to work with their unique brain in their career instead of against it. And what I’ve seen in my work is that, while ADHD can cause a lot of common and predictable challenges in the workplace, such as, you know, challenges with procrastination, organization, missed deadlines, exhaustion, fatigue, falling into patterns like perfectionism, workaholism, anxiety, all of these things. The real problem is that the majority of adults with ADHD were never taught how to work with their unique brain. A lot of folks grew up with the medical model framing of disability that any sort of difference is a defect that needs to be fixed. A lot of adults with ADHD went undiagnosed until they were adults, so they never learned, you know, some of these strategies and skills as when they were younger. And then for, for folks who were diagnosed when they were younger, a lot of them were medicated but not educated. So maybe they had access to ADHD medication or other treatment options, but may not have received education or had, had a safe and affirming space to practice strategies and skills that, that can be supportive to them in their daily life. So really, that’s what we’re trying to do with this program. It’s nine weeks. It is structured learning in community. So it’s a, it’s a cohort-based model, meaning it’s like a group.
Margaux Joffe: [00:10:01.73] Each cohort is up to 15 people from all different companies. We see that a lot of folks work in tech. And I think it’s just because of the background of my partner and I, so I failed to mention I co-created this program in partnership with Cathy Rashidian. She’s a certified ADHD coach and a certified executive coach. She’s also a coach trainer for ADDCA, the ADHD Coach Academy. So she trains other ADHD coaches. So we came together and combined our professional expertise and our lived experience, we’re both women with ADHD, to create a structured nine-week program, and throughout the nine weeks, the participants explore and practice compassionate and sustainable strategies for working with ADHD. And I really want to underscore compassionate and sustainable, because people with ADHD receive a lot of advice and, you know, well intentioned advice about how to manage ADHD. But a lot of folks with ADHD struggle with things like burnout, workaholism, and, and we know that trying harder is not the answer. So, I could, I could talk a lot about the program. But I think what I’m most proud of is that a lot of our participants, the feedback they give at the end is that they walk away with greater love and acceptance for themselves. And I think that’s the most powerful thing that we can do is, is learn how to love and accept ourselves because everything flows from there.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:11:38.02] I love that. And what a fantastic program, helping so many different people. And by bringing in individuals from different organizations, you can build your network and just have a support system outside the organization, which I feel like is so important.
Margaux Joffe: [00:11:58.21] Yes, it’s so important. And I want to underscore the power of community for anyone with ADHD listening to this. Don’t do ADHD alone. My partner Cathy talks about that. I love that phrase that she uses. Community can be so helpful, whether that’s joining a local support group or an online support group or joining any type of community that’s, that’s designed to be supportive for folks with ADHD because there can be such a power in having a space to share your experiences, feel seen and understood and, you know, build friendships and also have a space where you can laugh about it too, right? So, I think everyone needs a safe space where they can share their ADHD experiences and feel the power and the joy of being in community with others.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:12:48.95] I love that. I want to talk a little bit more about your own experience and maybe any tools that you feel like are really helping you succeed at work. And maybe if there are any digital tools that you find especially useful that you want to share.
Margaux Joffe: [00:13:04.18] Yeah, so everyone’s experience with ADHD is different. There’s three different subtypes of ADHD, inattentive, hyperactive and combined subtype, and it’s kind of like a spectrum. I’m more on the inattentive to combined subtype of ADHD. So, like many people with ADHD, I always had this sense that I was lazy or not living up to my potential. And even though that wasn’t, there was no, there was no, that was a completely unfounded thought. But the challenges that I had before I was diagnosed were, were really around workaholism. I would work, I feel like I would work like twice as hard as everyone else. I would stay up late working on presentations that were due the next day. And really so, I was in this cycle of burnout. And so, for me, when I finally did get diagnosed when I was 29, I had the opportunity, I went to therapy for the first time. And so cognitive behavioral therapy was, was really helpful for me in terms of healing some of those limiting beliefs. And this feeling like I always had to do more and prove and be perfect in order to be valuable. So I think there was a lot of unlearning that needed to happen for me personally in my journey, unlearning ideas about myself, and then being willing to accept support and, and know that I didn’t have to do it all alone.
Margaux Joffe: [00:14:35.92] And then, what’s been, what was also really great is just having access and learning about different strategies and different tools that I could use to help me in my day to day. For me, I love the power of technology. I mean, I used to work in tech, but I love how technology can really be assistive for those of us with ADHD. I mean, it can also be really distracting, which is why, like right now, my phone is on airplane mode. I always turn off notifications to limit distractions, but I think for people with ADHD it can be really helpful to embrace technology to assist us. So, a few tools that I find very useful in my day-to-day are any tools that can help preserve my cognitive resources. If I was a millionaire, I would have a personal assistant or executive assistant that was helping me with all of those kind of tasks. But, in the meantime, we can use technology. So Calendly. Coordinating meetings is something that, for example, just like really is draining for me. And you might be listening to this and thinking, well, no one likes to coordinate meetings. I mean like, yeah, of course. But for people with ADHD, it requires a lot of executive functioning and it can, it can take, it can drain a lot of our cognitive resources.
Margaux Joffe: [00:15:55.27] Um, so that’s why I love Calendly, like I’m obsessed with Calendly. Um, thank you to the founder who created Calendly and you know, it’s something that can be super helpful for people with ADHD and benefit everyone. That’s what I love about accessibility. When we design with disability in mind we can create solutions that will help everybody in their work, in their life. So Calendly is one tool I love for calendar coordination. For remembering passwords that used to be the bane of my existence, remembering passwords and with ADHD it can come with impairments and working memory. So LastPass is a tool that I use for password management, and that has just been like another tool that I love because it just makes day to day logging into all these websites we have to get into on a daily basis just seamless. I don’t have to remember passwords and it’s better for cybersecurity. I’m really excited right now about ChatGPT. I just started using it a couple of weeks ago and other AI tools through the lens of thinking about how it can be an assistive technology for people with ADHD. So, yeah. Are you using ChatGPT?
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:17:10.38] I love ChatGPT. I think it has a lot of interesting uses. My team uses it quite frequently, but sometimes your brain just can’t come up with a creative idea to save its life. Or you’re looking for a professional response and you can ask ChatGPT to do all those things for you.
Margaux Joffe: [00:17:29.61] Yes. Yes. Or sometimes you have too many ideas and then you need help organizing your ideas or you have an idea and then you want to, you need help creating an outline. One, a common challenge for people with ADHD when it comes to working on a project is getting started. So with ADHD, it can impact executive functions, cognitive skills that have to do with planning, organizing, getting started on tasks, managing time and effort. So task activation, getting started, finding that door, finding that first step can sometimes just be the most challenging part for people with ADHD. But once they get into the project, then sometimes they even get into hyperfocus and then they can jam out on it. So I think that’s where ChatGPT can also be assistive in getting started on a project. If you have a big project, you could use ChatGPT as like a sounding board to say, tell it what the project is here. I’m working on this project. Create an outline for me of the steps that I need to take and then you have an outline. Step one: start here. Sometimes we just need help taking that first step. You know, another thing that I think is so cool is just the, the proofreading and editing for, for some people that may struggle with, just like you said, the professional writing. You can write something so that you get your thoughts on paper and what you want to communicate. You can put it into ChatGPT and ask it to proofread it or edit, edit it for you.
Margaux Joffe: [00:19:01.87] Or if you have to cut it down to like 200 words, a certain word count, you can put it into ChatGPT and it will give you a version that’s shorter. So I’m, I’m really excited about, about AI as, as an assistive technology for neurodivergent people. And I love what you said about the professional response. I think it can also be really assistive in helping us understand social norms, understand what might be appropriate in a given situation. Like, for example, one of my best friends from childhood recently invited me to be her, she called it Best Woman at her Wedding, which I guess is like maid of honor. And I’ve never been a maid of honor. And I just sometimes, I feel like, you know, many neurodivergent people say this. Like, I feel like I just, there’s, there’s a guidebook or a rule book for adulting that many people got a copy of, but I never got a copy of it. And so like, literally last week I asked ChatGPT I was like, my best friend from childhood just invited me to be her maid of honor at her wedding. Like, what does that mean? What are my responsibilities? And give me a list of things I need to be thinking about and like it did that for me. I also have to help her plan her, I get to plan her bachelorette party. So I asked ChatGPT, what are five ideas for like games that we could play to help everyone get to know each other and to celebrate my friend.
Margaux Joffe: [00:20:32.83] And it gave me a list of games that we could play. So I know this is not, those are not work-related examples, but those were the, some recent things I used it for. But what it’s doing is it’s preserving my energy so that I have, I don’t have to go into a rabbit hole of searching Google to learn all about what it means and what I have to do at my friend’s bachelorette party. And I can just preserve that energy to focus on my work. And also I want to say, too, is I think all of us, we can expand our mindset about what professional communication looks like. And I think there’s an opportunity to redefine that. So many people agonize about writing the perfect email, and we see this in our ADHD program where people are spending, you know, an hour writing and rewriting an email eight times because they’re so concerned about a typo or a grammatical mistake. Or does it sound professional? Is it appropriate? This is draining so much time and energy. And while tools like ChatGPT might be useful to help us with those communications, at the end of the day, I think all of us too, maybe it’s time for us to rethink like what professional communication even looks like, and being more accepting of the fact that people may communicate differently and maybe we can just be more open to that and not judge people if they have a typo in their email.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:22:03.58] All the things that you’re saying right now are resonating with me, with the typos. I mean, that’s, I have written multiple books and write for a living, content for a living, and sometimes I’ll get a message on social media that’s like, “This is great, but you missed X, Y, Z here.” So, even with two editing reviews from separate entities, no one is perfect. And I don’t want people to agonize over sending the perfect email because, because that feeling isn’t, the amount of stress and anxiety that, that comes along with it. I also feel like you’re, for me and my ADHD, a lot of what you’re saying is resonating and I have created like systems and processes. So we project manage everything so I can understand, like you are with your bachelorette responsibilities, writing down all the steps so that you don’t miss them. I tend to go squirrel; I have a million ideas. I have giant post-it notes on my wall that I just stick my ideas. Otherwise they will never stop. And it took me, well, most of my adult life thus far to figure out a process or a system that works for me to be able to let those things go. They have a, they have a home.
Margaux Joffe: [00:23:29.97] Yes. So I love that. I love that because so many people with ADHD have a superpower in ideation. They’re really good with coming up with ideas. And I think one of the common traps or pitfalls is that, you know, we have an idea and we’re so excited about it and we jump right into starting to execute it. And my mom used to call this my creative black hole. Before I was diagnosed with ADHD, sometimes I would just go off the, go off the map, go off the radar for like days at a time, like no one would hear from me because I would get an idea and then I would, I would just like go off and start creating it, like a new documentary video I wanted to create. And then I would go and be like editing it and, you know, and then I would reemerge. And I had so many unfinished projects. And what, what I learned, what I had to learn through that process is just because I have an idea doesn’t mean I have to execute it. And I love your system of the Post-it notes on the wall. And, and I have a system. I have a folder on my computer. It’s like literally just called “project ideas”. Because when I have an idea, there’s like a need for me to get it out of my brain and onto something. And so I’ll allow myself like, I’ll set a timer for like 15 or 20 minutes and then I’ll just brain dump and I’ll write, write, write onto a document and like be able to have that experience, to be able to express the idea.
Margaux Joffe: [00:25:06.66] And then I just like, then I close the document and I go back to what I need to be doing in my day. And so I just encourage people with ADHD, like for me also I created, I have different rules for myself, because I know how my brain works now. So I have a 24-hour rule because I know I get naturally excited about so many things. Somebody will message me and say, Hey, like, I want to collaborate with you on X, Y, Z thing, and I’ll be like, Oh my gosh, that’s such a great idea. Yes, I want to do it. But now I have a system where I sleep on it, I sleep on everything. I give myself 24 hours before I, if I’m going to, before committing time, energy, or money, significant time, energy, or money to something, I make myself wait 24 hours because of the ADHD impulsiveness and just a genuine, I just know I have genuine excitement and enthusiasm. But the reality is we, we only have 24 hours in a day. So, so, yeah, I know, I just like, I’m going off, off the topic of our, of our interview outline, but I just, I love how you’ve created a system for yourself so that you have a home, you can capture all the brilliant ideas, and then later you can come back and decide which ones you want to pursue, if at all.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:25.39] Yes, because if I don’t do it this way, I will, like you’re talking about, hyperfixate. I will stand up a completely new website, launch a new business idea in under 24 hours, and just abandon all other things out of, it’s, it’s, I can’t even explain it. I can’t think about anything else. It will take over your life.
Margaux Joffe: [00:26:49.09] So it really will. It really will. And I think, and that can be a superpower when we can channel it in a way that’s going to be supportive for us.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:59.95] Absolutely. Well, I want to redirect back on topic just a little bit and talk about employers and diversity. So, how can we as employers maybe show our employees and job candidates that we’re prioritizing diversity and inclusion and accessibility specifically for neurodiverse individuals?
Margaux Joffe: [00:27:23.31] Yes, this is such an important question and thank you for all the work you’re doing with this podcast and educating employers because we see so many disparities when it comes to employment for people with disabilities. Like we live in a world where adults with ADHD make up 5 to 8% of the global population, but we’re 60% more likely to be fired from a job, 70% more likely to be incarcerated, like this should not be the case. It should not be the case where, you know, globally, over 80% of autistic adults are unemployed, according to the UN. This is, this is just should not be the case. And it doesn’t have to be, it doesn’t have to be this way. And that’s why I’m just so passionate about what I do and trying to create more inclusive work environments so that everyone can have access to dignified work where they can get paid a living wage. And so employers’ disability inclusion needs to be a priority. Disability inclusion needs to be part of overall DEI efforts, diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. And unfortunately, disability sometimes is left out of the diversity conversation. So I would invite companies to make sure disability is on the agenda. Make sure it’s part of DEI efforts. If you don’t have an accessibility team, make sure there’s someone in your company that, that is in charge and responsible for advancing disability inclusion. There’s things that are required by law under the Americans with Disabilities Act. That should not be the goal. That should be the starting point. I think it’s important that we have a mindset of going beyond compliance because compliance is, is the bare minimum. Instead of asking ourselves what is required by law or, you know, we have to provide these reasonable accommodations for employees because it’s required.
Margaux Joffe: [00:29:30.50] Like, what if we start thinking about how can we create a workplace environment where everyone can thrive? And it starts with creating fair policies, making sure your company has clear rules that support employees with disabilities throughout their journey, from hiring to advancement, retention. Education is huge. Educating your people managers, your teams, about disability inclusion, about neurodiversity. Because sometimes stigma is, can be the biggest barrier. We need to dispel stigma and dispel stereotypes and change people’s mindsets about disability, because I think that’s, that can be like the first, the first step: education, dispelling stigma. There’s, there’s, there’s just so much we can talk about here. So I’m just trying to hit the high notes. But, of course, hiring is important. The Made by Dyslexia, which is an organization, they did a workplace survey in 2021 and they found that three out of four dyslexic people believe that the recruiting process puts them at a disadvantage and 8 in 10 feel like traditional, like the recruit, their recruiting experiences have not given them the opportunity to show their true abilities. So there’s a lot of barriers in even just the process to apply for a job and get a job. And in that same survey, actually no, different survey, by Manpower Group, found that half of employers say they don’t consider dyslexia when recruiting. They don’t believe it’s relevant. We also know, like less than 1 in 10 HR professionals consider neurodiversity in their practices. So, I’d like to see us get to a point where all HR professionals are equipped and empowered with knowledge and understanding of disability inclusion and how it’s relevant to their roles and how to integrate that into, into the whole employee experience, from recruiting to onboarding to retention and advancement.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:31:46.12] I love that.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:31:48.44] Let’s take a reset. This is Jessica Miller- Merrill and you are listening to the Workology podcast powered by Ace the HR Exam and Upskill HR. Today I’m so excited to be talking with Margaux Joffe, Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies, or CPACC. This podcast is sponsored by Workology and it’s part of our Future of Work series in partnership with PEAT, the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology. Before we get back to this podcast interview, I want to hear from you. Text the word podcast to (512) 548-3005. Ask me questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you.
Break: [00:32:30.39] The Workology podcast Future of Work series is supported by PEAT, the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology. PEAT’s initiative is to foster collaboration and action around accessible technology in the workplace. PEAT is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, ODEP. Learn more about PEAT at PEATWorks.org. That’s PEATWorks.org.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:32:58.98] So, I feel like creating a culture of inclusion, like as, as an HR leader, we can kind of, you’ve laid the kind of the groundwork, you know, becoming more familiar with neurodivergent individuals, how it works, what we need, the kind of support or information that we need in order to be successful in our jobs and the recruiting process, all those things. But how can we help make employees become more comfortable to ask for those accommodations? Because there’s a lot of fear by individuals that they’re going to lose their job or be reprimanded or harassed or something because they came out and said, “Hey, I am neurodivergent and I would like to request this accommodation.”
Margaux Joffe: [00:33:45.16] Yeah, absolutely. And that’s very real. Like a lot of people, you know, there’s all sorts of stats out there, but the majority of people with disabilities will not self ID to their employer because they’re afraid of what that’s going to mean for them. A lot of people are scared to talk to their manager. So, that’s where I think, you know, one, one thing that can be really impactful is educating your people leaders, providing education and training for managers. Because a lot of managers come to me and they, they have good intentions. They want to support. Like I believe that most managers want to do a good job, you know, but maybe they’ve never, they don’t, maybe they’ve never gotten any training about disability inclusion and they don’t know where to start. And then they’re afraid and they don’t want to say the wrong thing. So they’re not saying anything. So companies can equip and empower their people leaders with resources, with learning opportunities so that they can feel confident in, in creating a more inclusive environment. Because the majority of employees with disabilities will disclose to their manager before they disclose to HR. Cornell did a study on this, and I think it was like 60%, people are 60% more likely to disclose a disability to their manager and request an accommodation versus going to HR directly. So managers really need to be empowered with the information they need onto how to have those conversations and what they can do to lead inclusively.
Margaux Joffe: [00:35:12.19] So I think manager training is, is a big one. And then I think overall in terms of creating a more inclusive culture, it really starts at the top with leadership, leaders setting the tone from the top in the way that disability is talked about, highlighting leaders with disabilities like normalizing, normalizing disability and neurodiversity as topics that are not taboo, as topics that are, you know, discussed just like any other topic in the workplace so that conversations can be opened up, we can dispel stigma and then we can get into conversations of, okay, so how might we create a workplace where everyone can be successful. But we’re not going to have those conversations if people are even scared to talk about it in the first place. Another big thing around accommodations is, I think too often the energy around accommodations in the workplace is, yes, we’re going to, we will accommodate you. We will accommodate you because it’s required by law. And here, now you have to fill out all this paperwork and go through this laborious process. We will accommodate you feels very different than we’ve worked to design this workplace with you in mind. We are designing a workplace where everyone can work and be successful. And if there’s things that you need to be successful in your role, let us know. And we want to make sure that you have those things that you need to be successful in your role.
Margaux Joffe: [00:36:44.98] And I think every employee deserves that, right? So, I think in the future we can transform how we’re thinking about accommodations instead of just being, it’s like over here, Oh yeah, people with disabilities, they can request these, quote, special things so that they can do their job. No. You know, all employees have strengths. All employees have areas where they support, need support. Many employees might need an adjustment so that they can be successful in their role. Those are conversations we should be having with, with all of our employees so we can move from compliance towards universal design. And I think the last thing that I’ll say on this is, what if we thought about every accommodation request as a clue for us as employers or organizational leaders as how we might want to adjust our workplace. So if an employee is asking for captions for a company all-hand instead of looking at it like, Oh, this is an accommodation request, now we need to provide this, what if we’re like, okay, how can this be a clue for how we can make our company all-hands more accessible and inclusive moving forward for everyone? And instead of just providing accommodations for that one employee, we think about, okay, let’s make captioning a standard and let’s make sure all of our all-hands are captioned always. And then people don’t have to request that accommodation anymore in the future because it’s built in. It’s by design.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:38:13.35] I love that. And let’s talk about education. So let’s say that HR people are like, okay, you’ve convinced me. I need to know more about neurodiversity and ADHD. Where do you suggest they go to educate themselves beyond this podcast?
Margaux Joffe: [00:38:32.34] Yes, great question. There’s so many great books and podcasts and training opportunities out there when it comes for, for people who want to learn more about neurodiversity in the workplace. I’ve curated some of these resources on my website. MargauxJoffe.com/resources. You can find books about neurodiversity, other consultants, experts, on demand LinkedIn learning courses about neurodiversity in the workplace. So there’s some resources there to get you started. I also love doing talks in workplaces to open up the conversation, whether it’s an ADHD 101 type of presentation or neurodiversity in the workplace presentation. And so that’s, that’s something that you can do, whether it’s bringing me in or bringing in another speaker, hosting an event where you can bring in someone to open up that conversation, normalize discussion about neurodiversity and ground all employees in the understanding of what neurodiversity is, what are some of the common strengths, the, the common barriers that employees might face, and what are some concrete and practical strategies for, for making your workplace more inclusive? All of that stuff is on, is on my website. And the most important thing is just taking one action, taking one action to learn more and going from there.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:39:56.84] I love that. And we’ll include a link to Margaux’s list and then we’ll have LinkedIn contact information. So if you need to reach out and ask some questions and looking for specifics, you’ll have her information so you can connect with her directly. Last question, because we were talking about this on, on our prep call when we, we first connected because I love remote work and I think it’s fantastic for me and my team. But how do you feel like the rise in remote work has helped or has it hindered employees with ADHD?
Margaux Joffe: [00:40:34.57] So remote work has been something that many people with disabilities have been asking for, for a long time. And due to COVID, it opened up the opportunity, out of necessity, for remote work to become more of a norm. So I think it’s great that we’re now in a place where there’s a lot more flexibility around work arrangements, and more people have access to the possibility to work remotely. I think it’s, it’s, it’s opened so many doors, especially for employees who have all different types of disabilities as well as people who, for whatever other reasons, may need access to, to flexible work and working remote. So I think overall it’s great that remote work is an option. I will say that remote work, on the other hand, doesn’t work for everyone, and I think we need to be mindful of that. There’s many, many different reasons people may not have access to dedicated workspaces in their home. They may not have physical space or an environment that will be conducive for them to work for any number of reasons. For people with ADHD, like I said earlier on this interview, everyone with ADHD is different and has, and has different ways in which they work best. For many people with ADHD, the open office environment is very distracting and it may be challenging for them to be productive in, in a busy office environment where there’s other people around.
Margaux Joffe: [00:42:07.91] For other people with ADHD, they actually need that body doubling. They need to be in an environment where people are working because it helps them get in the zone of focus because they see other people working and they have that dedicated desk and workspace that may be free from some distractions where at home it may be more challenging for them to work. It may be more distracting. So I’ve heard from, you know, there’s been people with ADHD in our course that say that working from home has been very challenging for them because of the lack of structure, the lack of routine in their day. It’s been hard for them to create boundaries and kind of structure their day for themselves. So everyone’s different. I would say, for people with ADHD that are struggling with the unstructuredness of, of work from home, there’s, there’s different things you can try. One participant in our program, his, his company had gone fully remote and he had some young kids and didn’t have a quiet place in his home to even work. So he requested from his manager if they could subsidize for him to get a WeWork office. And so he goes in and he has a desk. So he now has a work environment where he can go and, and that’s been really helpful for him as an example.
Margaux Joffe: [00:43:23.37] Another strategy that people can try is, is virtual body doubling. So body doubling is a term that you may have heard of in the ADHD community, simply means you do something with someone else present. And there’s lots of tools like Focusmate and other, and other tools that allow you to be matched with, with someone else and have a structured work time where for 20 minutes or 30 minutes or 50 minutes, you work on one task with another person. You work independently but, but you’re on like a video call with someone else and you have your microphone off and your camera off. So, so Focusmate is a, is an example of a fantastic tool that can support body doubling. You can even do it with yourself, like my business partner and I sometimes, if we have a, if we have something, we’re procrastinating, we’ll send each other a voice message on WhatsApp and say, Hey, like I need to get X, Y, Z thing done. I’m going to work on it at 1 p.m. and I’m going to let you know when I update it, when I finish it. And so sometimes we do simple things like that to just support each other with structure, accountability, body doubling to get things done.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:44:32.73] I love all that. I do that all the time. Actually. We call it co-working and yes, I will do it with other entrepreneurs. Maybe we’re launching something or rolling something out and we have a deadline. And I know that the only way that I’m going to be able to focus for 45 minutes is if I get on a Zoom call with someone else. They’re working too, and we just sit in complete silence and work on our things. But it gets the job done.
Margaux Joffe: [00:45:00.63] Yes, exactly. I love that. And the thing is, as humans, we were never designed to live and work in isolation. Like we’re not. And isolation is a huge issue right now that’s leading to a lot of depression just, just across the board, ADHD or not. And it’s something that, as an entrepreneur, that’s the biggest thing that I struggle with, is, is isolation and loneliness of working alone, living alone. And so we need to, we need to proactively reach for each other, like reach out to each other and support each other. I just did a silly, I’m saying, it’s not silly. I just did a little challenge with four, four other friends of mine with ADHD. I just said, hey, one of them was struggling with getting some stuff done and I was like, Hey, what if we do a seven-day challenge and take all these boring things we don’t want to do and we’ll make it fun? And so we, every day for 15 minutes, we, we did a challenge where we had to do something that was, we had been procrastinating, whether it was like making that overdue dentist appointment or paying that medical bill, that’s like collecting fees. I said it. I said it again earlier. The power of community and doing things together can make the experience just so much more fun and coming together and supporting each other. It’s something that’s so important.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:46:21.57] Well, Margaux, thank you so much for, for talking with us. I have links on the transcript of this podcast, includes your recommended resources, your Twitter, your LinkedIn, as well as how to join the ADHD Reset program. But I thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today.
Margaux Joffe: [00:46:43.94] Thank you so much for having me.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:46:45.68] The workplace has changed dramatically over the last few years, but it’s important for us to know that we don’t have to fear it or let it overwhelm us. I speak from experience here, highlighting the positive elements around what we have learned and how we support employees with disabilities and our efforts to recruit them is such a broad topic, but it is really about progress over perfection. Margaux really helped us understand that it’s important for employers to be aware of invisible disabilities like ADHD and how to support employees in a variety of ways to help them be successful. I haven’t talked about my own ADHD diagnosis, so I really appreciate for, Margaux just kind of helping me feel more comfortable and I hope it helps you feel more comfortable. I really appreciate Margaux’s insights and expertise on this essential podcast episode powered by PEAT. Before we leave, I do want to hear from you. I want your input and insights to text the word podcast to (512) 548-3005. Ask me questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number. I want to hear from you. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Workology podcast sponsored by Upskill HR and Ace the HR Exam. Have a great day.