Helping Employees Cope with OCD

21 March 2019

More than 150 million people globally, cope with OCD.

As health and wellness become increasingly ingrained in every aspect of our lives, from how we live and travel to what we consume and where we work, the global wellness industry has caught the attention of many employers looking for unique ways to attract and retain talent, manage HR costs and increase efficiency.

Understanding the marketplace and consumer trends spearheading the wellness industry’s trajectory is important in structuring an effective wellness management programme which best caters to their employees' needs.

Follow JLT as we explore Asia’s evolving wellness trends, utilise expert insight and provide fresh perspectives to help employers navigate the wellness industry’s offerings to create conducive work environments which cultivate longevity, inspire growth and generate impacts.


More than 150 million people (approximately 2% of the population) globally, cope with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The anxiety disorder, which according to Bupa revolves around obsessions; intrusive and unwelcome thoughts or doubts that interrupt thinking and lead to a feeling of anxiety, and compulsions; activities an individual feels they have to do to reduce the discomfort caused by the obsessive thoughts, can impact everything from personal relationships to work.

But, unlike common representations of the disorder, many OCD sufferers are highly functional and intelligent, with the ability to hold down a professional job, despite living with a condition that can make everyday tasks more difficult to navigate.

Unfortunately, the fear of being judged as a less valued or able member of staff can lead those battling with OCD to hide the disorder from their co-workers, with research finding that only 1 in 4 employees disclose their disorder to their employer. Ultimately, this can lead to a decline in productivity and work performance, and in time, symptoms may worsen.

It currently takes around 10 years for an OCD sufferer to seek help or reach a diagnosis, with reasons revolving around stigma and a lack of understanding attached to mental disorders often to blame. And when it comes to work, a worry that by speaking out it may hinder one’s ability to progress, means a high proportion of individuals end up suffering in silence.

However, as with any mental or physical health condition, workplaces have the power to ensure an employee with OCD can carry out their role to the best of their ability and in a way that doesn’t negatively impact the day-to-day running of the business.

Once the symptoms have been acknowledged, there are many ways in which workplaces can support sufferers, and in turn work towards cultivating a more productive, efficient and fulfilled workforce.

What sort of signs should you look out for to identify a person with OCD?

  • It may take an individual longer to complete work tasks because they’re battling with intrusive thoughts
  • An individual may appear constantly distressed
  • An individual may seek constant reassurance from co-workers or managers surrounding projects, tasks and other work-related issues
  • An individual may exhibit a lack of concentration
  • An individual may exhibit difficulty in making decisions or facing uncertainty when dealing with changes in the workplace or within their role
  • An individual may need to take lots of time off without disclosing why
  • An individual may constantly worry about how co-workers perceive them and their behaviour
  • An individual may avoid certain objects or spaces due to fears of contamination

How you can help a person suffering from OCD

  • Start by looking at your company culture and analyse how mental health issues fit into it. Does your company have an open door policy when it comes to employees discussing their health concerns? Do your employees feel as though they can open up about their struggles with mental health without fear of being judged or negatively impacted? If not, why and how can you change that?
    By debunking the stigmas attached to mental health disorders like OCD, you can encourage your workforce to communicate their problems earlier, and help to provide them with support more effectively. Talking through mental health issues openly can also help other members of staff to understand that co-workers who are dealing with mental health issues can still be valued and effective team players.
  • Once an employee has communicated their struggles with OCD, as a company it’s your responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to enable them to carry on working to the best of their ability. These adjustments should be decided in collaboration with the individual in question and could include time off for treatment, flexible working hours, switching in-person meetings to telephone meetings or holding regular one-on-one catch-ups with managers to discuss their ongoing concerns.
    Providing a supportive and comfortable working environment can help to aid recovery and decrease the chance of long term absence. So, make sure you have a plan of action and remain attentive to your employees’ needs as they evolve.
  • Having taken action within the workplace, the next step is to encourage the pursuit of adequate treatment. Start by providing information on the different types of therapy available –– such as Exposure Response Prevention Therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy –– and their effectiveness as a way of managing obsessions and compulsions in the workplace. And support employees in their decision to start treatment by being flexible in terms of managing their work hours around appointments.
    You can also encourage self-care practices that can be undertaken at home or in the workplace –– mindfulness and meditation can help with letting go of negative thoughts or stresses, as can making lifestyle changes such as exercising more, getting enough sleep and avoiding alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants.
  • Most importantly, be discreet in your approach.

“Despite an increase in awareness on this subject, there is still a prevalence of mental illness stigma in the workplace. Often times it’s due to a lack of understanding of the illness or not knowing how to approach the affected employee in the correct manner. Employers need to address this during leadership training to ensure that managers are well-equipped to spot a troubled employee and provide help and support as soon as possible.” commented Richard Roper, Managing Director, JLT Benefits Solutions (Asia).


This article was produced by Welltodo, in collaboration with JLT.

JLT specialises in providing employee benefits consultancy, insurance placement, health and wellness services to our corporate clients around the world. Our services range from a simple life cover in a single country to designing and implementing a global employee benefits strategy. Our focus is to help our clients manage and reduce their healthcare costs, attract and retain employees and increase productivity by creating a healthier and happier workforce.

If you would like to learn more about our services, please contact Richard Roper, Managing Director, JLT Benefits Solutions (Asia).