How to Deal with OCD at Work

Tuesday, 22nd May 2018

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Managing a mental health condition is never simple, but at work it can be especially difficult. Whilst you might be able to set up your home to accommodate to your OCD, at work you inevitably have less control of your environment which can make managing anxiety levels an extra struggle.

Managing OCD in the workplace:

OCD presents unique challenges in the workplace. From intrusive thoughts about colleagues to shared bathroom facilities, OCD symptoms can make a rewarding career feel impossible.

When I started my first internship during University, I was more nervous about managing my OCD than I was about the job itself.

What if my clothes became contaminated and I couldn’t change out of them? What if I had to leave a meeting three times to wash and re-wash my hands?

I had earned an incredible opportunity to kick-start my career, and I almost didn’t show up to my first day...

My OCD was a huge hurdle when it came to work, but with the support of my employers and a good therapist, I developed strategies to help me perform to my full potential.

If you're about to enter the workforce or returning after some time away, the prospect of spending large chunks of time in an unpredictable environment might be daunting.

Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies that you, your employer and your support network can put in place to make working life more manageable.

Should I tell my boss about my OCD?

Although employers are becoming more clued-up when it comes to mental health, it's still hard not to worry about being judged for information you choose to share at work.

It’s important to remember that the decision is entirely yours – there's no legal obligation to disclose your condition if you don’t want to. And if you do choose to speak up, remember that it's illegal for your employer to discriminate based on your condition.

Before making up your mind, it might help to ask yourself a few questions first:

1. Do you need reasonable adjustments to be made in order to do your job?
If the answer's yes, then talking to your boss will likely benefit you both.

2. What's your company culture like?
If your organisation (formally or informally) encourages openness and communication, it may be easier to initiate a discussion about mental health.

3. Does your company have any support systems in place?
More and more businesses are implementing mental health initiatives such as onsite counselling and 'mental health first aiders' – a sign that they take employee mental health seriously.

4. What's your relationship with your manager like?
If you don't feel comfortable reaching out to them, you might prefer to speak to HR or another trusted colleague first.

OCD and your career:

Whilst none of us want our career to be directed by our OCD, it's worth considering a career path that complements both your strengths and your limitations – including your mental health. Many people have a successful and fulfilling career that fits around physical health conditions, and there's no reason why the same can't be achieved with a mental health condition.

If you obsess about contamination, you might prefer an office job to something more hands-on. If you want to attend therapy regularly, a role with flexible working hours might suit you best. Remote work is opening lots of opportunities for those with more severe symptoms, who prefer to work from the comfort of their own home.

Whilst your career choices should never be driven by your mental health alone, there are always ways to design your working life in a way that enables you to thrive.

With a mental health condition like OCD, career decisions might feel overwhelming. With the right support, however, there 's no reason why you can’t have the career you aspire to.

Speaking with a therapist is one way to figure out the best career options for you. If you think you would benefit from speaking to a professional about managing OCD in the workplace – speak to one of our team to get help to find a therapist today.

Georgina is a 20-something writer, figure skater and recovering OCD sufferer. She can usually be found with a glass of wine, an acoustic playlist and a good book.


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