How To Handle Addiction In The Workplace
Between project deadlines and co-worker relationships, employees often take stress home with them when the workday ends. These pressures can be a heavy weight on their shoulders — and sometimes, workers turn to habits that eventually lead to addiction. Throughout workplaces in the United States, one out of every 11 employees has had a substance abuse issue in the last year.
It’s clear that addiction can lead to work-related repercussions, including reduced productivity, on-the-job injuries, and more. But substance abuse also impacts employees as individuals in their personal lives. Therefore, employers have an additional responsibility to help.
Take a look at what you can do to support employees with addictions.
1. Put a Zero-Tolerance Rule in Place
First, you need to emphasize a drug- and alcohol-free workplace. It’s probably already an unwritten rule in the office, as most employees will always be sober when they show up to work. However, you should still implement the policy officially to prevent substance abuse occurrences.
If you required employees to take drug tests every six months, you could better identify who needs help. Plus, you could set up a system where co-workers can come to you with concerns about fellow employees. It’s smart in general to ensure hires know they must contribute to a safe work environment, as well.
2. Adjust Business Culture
Today’s workplaces sometimes directly contribute to employee substance abuse issues. Examples like Wall Street bankers who drink alcohol at lunch meetings are common. That said, many employers now offer potentially harmful perks like sponsored happy hours and break room taps that only encourage addiction.
It’s always wise to look at how your workplace’s culture may contribute to substance abuse. These checks can be tricky — especially when you might realize you inadvertently supported a harmful work environment. That’s a hard lesson to learn. However, you need to have honest conversations about the situations you put your employees in.
Eventually, you may realize that adjustments need to be made to create a positive, healthy work environment for you and your employees.
3. Look for Specific Patterns and Signs
Keep in mind that substance abuse in real life isn’t like the movies. It’s a challenge to know the patterns and signs because they’re usually subtle. These indicators won’t always be noticeable, in-your-face actions that make you immediately suspect a problem.
Fortunately, you can learn to spot certain hints that allude to a substance abuse condition:
- Employees have attendance issues, including late arrivals, sick days, and long breaks.
- Employees become closed-off and argumentative with others.
- Employees fail to meet important deadlines.
- Employees appear particularly tired, have bloodshot eyes, smell like alcohol, and show other physical clues.
Take every opportunity to note scenarios where you notice patterns or signs in conjunction. These hints won’t be one-off scenarios. Remember that substance abuse symptoms are usually grouped together — which means that just because an employee comes to work exhausted, they aren’t automatically addicted to drugs or alcohol. More clues are likely to indicate an issue.
4. Use a Careful, Gentle Approach
Here’s a point you shouldn’t downplay. It’s crucial not to bring up concerns about substance abuse to an employee unless you take a cautious approach. If you don’t, your employee will likely resist your help because you’ve come to them with a combative or accusatory tone.
Instead, you should wait until you’re almost entirely sure that an employee has a problem. After you’ve confirmed your suspicions with a substance abuse counselor, you can meet privately with the employee to voice your concerns. Be sure to emphasize they’re not in trouble and you’re ready to help.
5. Be Ready to Offer Support
Now’s when you should take action. Remember to have a plan in place to deal with addiction. This strategy might include an Employee Assistance Program the employee can access to remedy the situation. There are other resources available, including access to health care and wellness programs that can provide further support.
If your employee refuses help, you can continue to watch the situation from a distance until you want to lead an intervention. It’s best to only use interventions for employees who come to work under the influence. Don’t conduct the meeting without a qualified counselor present. Include colleagues who are close to the individual, as well.
Use These Suggestions to Handle Substance Abuse in the Workplace
Whether your employee’s substance abuse issue stems from work or not, you should be ready to help them find a solution. This scenario can be challenging to navigate as a supervisor — but you can play a significant role in your worker’s recovery. It’s crucial to keep an eye out for specific hints, and you should be ready to act when the time comes. Don’t forget to take a look at how you can change as a workplace, too.