How to deal with OCD in the workplace?

AI Global Media

How to deal with OCD in the workplace?

In honour of Mental Health Awareness Day and OCD Awareness Week held during October, AI Global Media are continuing to focus on the importance of mindfulness & wellbeing within the workplace.

Last year, they organised a 10k night time walk in support of Mental Health. This has now been installed as a weekly feature in their work routine with Wednesday Walks to show support for staff wellbeing.

In light of this, Rowen Dales, one of the trusted researchers reflects on how having OCD has impacted her time at AI Global Media.


Can you please explain to what OCD is like?

Everyone can experience intrusive thoughts, and although they’re not very pleasant, most people can differentiate these thoughts from their own. Unfortunately, for a person with OCD, intrusive thoughts spark extreme anxiety and distress. They will ruminate, question, and obsess over these thoughts until they're forced to act out a compulsion to ease their anxiety. This can be done through mental checking, seeking reassurance, obsessive googling, and avoidance.


What is OCD like for you as an individual?

Since I have pure O (which stands for purely obsessional but means that the compulsions are all mental rather than external), my work and daily life are not impacted in the stereotypical perfectionist way that the media shows. Although, I like having a tidy workspace and sometimes it's nice to make sure my excel spreadsheet cells are equal, my OCD is set off by things that don't centre around cleanliness and preciseness.


Has there been any difficulties having OCD at work?

Concentrating on tasks became extremely difficult, and the mental compulsions alongside this interfered with my productivity as they were often time-consuming.

Other people also have the potential to unintentionally trigger me and accidentally set off an obsessive thought. This meant that I sometimes wanted to avoid being around people to ensure that no negative thoughts were activated. But at the same time, being all alone was even worse. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The thoughts often made me zone out to the point where I didn't feel like talking to people. This caused me to worry about whether people thought I was standoffish or boring. I was worried that people would think I was making things up for attention since on the surface I didn't really 'look unwell'.


How has work accommodated to help you manage your mental health?

They have created an environment where I have felt able to confide my issues, which has meant that I have never felt like I was a burden or a nuisance. My colleagues that know about my OCD have also provided support and comfort during flare-ups. We are very lucky to have a few mental health ambassadors within the workplace, and I'd feel very comfortable talking to any of them about my issues.

Thankfully, we also still have our work from home scheme in place which has been incredibly helpful for me to work around my sessions.

By having this many lifelines at work, it has significantly decreased my anxiety, which has also helped me in my daily life too.


Do you have any tips on how you manage OCD flare-ups at work?

  1. Try and list 5 senses (5 things you can see, smell, hear, taste, and feel). This mindfulness technique is good for any mental health condition as it allows you to be present and escape from your brain for a while.
  2. Use your work as a distraction. The key is to not try and get rid of the thoughts but allow them to be there without them controlling your day. By staying focused on the tasks at hand, you are less likely to be ruminating on your thoughts.
  3. Don't be afraid to have a little break away from your desk. Sometimes all you need is a few minutes alone to calm yourself down without feeling like people are staring.
  4. If comfortable doing so, mention to someone at work that you are struggling.