OCD In The Workplace: 4 Strategies And Tips For Employees And Employers To Overcome Challenges

July 11, 2023

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects about 1-2% of the adult population in the United States. A lot of people think that OCD is all about needing everything to be neat and tiny, but it is so much more than that. 

Some people who have the condition don’t even know that they have it, even though it is a disorder that impacts their quality of life. The severity of the condition can vary from person to person, and while some people can live a relatively normal life even with it, others might suffer severely and be unable to function.

What Is OCD? 

OCD is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by continuous intrusive and unwanted thoughts, called obsessions. These obsessions usually lead to repeated actions and behaviors that are aimed at avoiding or controlling thoughts, and these behaviors can be referred to as rituals or compulsions.

Compulsions can be in the form of a person needing to always count objects, excessive hand hygiene, pacing, or other behaviors. 

The treatment for OCD is usually a combination of some form of therapy and medication. Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, are recommended treatments for OCD. Some patients don’t respond to these treatments though, and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a form of treatment that can help these patients. TMS treatment centers are present in various states across the country, and doctors carry out treatment by administering electromagnetic pulses that are aimed at stimulating the areas of the brain responsible for compulsive behaviors and obsessive thoughts. 

OCD and The Workplace

OCD can be a challenge in the workplace, and the most visible problem it causes is reduced productivity.

An employee whose compulsion is to always check and double-check things might feel the need to constantly refresh their email inbox every few minutes out of fear that they might miss something important. This will be a huge barrier to productivity as they are unable to focus on the work that they are supposed to be doing.

Other ways that OCD can affect work include:

  • It can cause friction and disagreements with coworkers. The employee with OCD can feel that things should be done a certain way, and if things are not done that way they may disrupt the progress of meetings with the aim of calling things back to order. Doing this can frustrate everybody on the team and cause friction.
  • Sometimes, employees with OCD are unable to satisfy the needs of customers and clients. Due to their need to follow a laid down procedure, OCD personnel may get frustrated when customers don’t want to do things that way. They may also ask customers to repeat themselves multiple times in order to double-check that they have the correct details, and this might get annoying for the client.
  • People with OCD may take a longer time to do their work because they are trying to ward off their intrusive thoughts.
  • They may go late to meetings and work because of their compulsions.
  • An employee with OCD may avoid conference rooms, bathrooms and other social settings because of their fear of contamination.

Strategies And Tips For Employees And Employers To Overcome Challenges

Employees are not legally required to disclose to their employers that they have OCD, and employers do not have the right to discriminate against employees who suffer from OCD and other mental health issues, as stated by the Americans with disabilities act. 

However, some employees are still afraid to disclose their conditions to their employers for fear of being stigmatized, or worse still, fired. People with OCD can experience stigma in their workplace, which sometimes is a result of their coworkers finding it hard to understand them.

To improve the work experience of employees with OCD, here are some tips that employers and employees can implement.

Provide Accommodations 

Accommodations are reasonable adjustments at work that helps people with OCD to experience less anxiety and mental strain while performing their tasks. These adjustments could be in the form of giving them flexible work hours or allowing them to take frequent short breaks in order to refocus. 

OCD symptoms are different for each person, and employers should extensively discuss with their employees and ask them what they need before deciding on which accommodations to make for them. 

Educate Other Employees

Co-workers can stigmatize OCD personnel and treat them unfairly. And they might even do this out of their ignorance, not because they mean any harm. Sometimes, they use language like ‘mad’ or ‘weak’ to describe them because of their compulsions. 

As a way to provide support to employees with OCD, employers can organize programs where they educate the other members of the organization on how to not be ableist. 

This could be done by correcting their misperceptions about the condition and educating them about the correct terms to be used when describing it. 

Practice Mindfulness

A person with OCD can deal with their intrusive thoughts by practicing mindfulness activities like breathing exercises and meditation. 

To do this, they need to accept these thoughts and acknowledge them without judging or dismissing them. For example, an employee who is afraid of germs can put their hands on the meeting table in the conference room in order to feel their feelings more intensely. When they do this often, they can get used to the thoughts and get better at managing them.

Seek Treatment

Various therapeutic procedures are available for people with OCD. Some of them include cognitive behavior therapy, meditation therapy, and TMS. 

Undergoing therapy can help a person with OCD to become better at handling their intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.


OCD is a chronic illness that causes a person to have uncontrolled thoughts, and these thoughts lead to repetitive behaviors. It can severely impact their quality of life and make them unable to function. 

At work, it can reduce how productive they are, primarily because they can’t focus. Employers and co-workers have a duty to people with OCD, and this is to provide them with a work environment that is as accommodating as possible.  


  • Is TMS therapy FDA-approved? 

Yes, TMS therapy has been approved by the FDA since 2008. It has advanced since then from being just an experimental procedure to a widely recommended therapy option for patients who suffer from various treatment-resistant depressive disorders.  

  • Do insurance companies cover the cost of TMS therapy? 

Yes, the cost of TMS treatment is covered by insurance companies, especially if the patient has undergone medical treatments and procedures in the past that have failed to yield positive results. 

  • Can I go back to work immediately after I receive my TMS treatments?

A very helpful advantage of TMS is that it has no downtime. The procedure is non-invasive and is done without the aid of anesthesia. After treatments, patients can go back to resume their normal activities. An employee that is undergoing TMS sessions will not have to stop working because of their treatment sessions.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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