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The cost of addiction in the workplace

Misuse of alcohol or drugs can impair an individual’s ability to perform both socially and in the workplace. Drug and alcohol abuse can have a serious impact on employers and will affect an organisation’s productivity and profitability through staff sickness, overtime costs and recruitment.

Dealing with addiction in the workplace

Here The Cabin highlights how to spot and deal with the effects of addiction in the small business workplace.

How a business can be affected internally and externally

Internally the organisation will be affected if a key member is descending or slowly becoming immersed in addiction, this will become evident in their work contribution and office relationships. Externally, this may have a monetary impact through loss of contracts with partners or clients, missed appointments for meetings and a general attitude change towards external partnerships.

Many high-functioning addicts have a seemingly normal family and social life, but they are in denial about the depth of the issues that are going on in relation to their drug or alcohol use. Understanding how to respond to addiction in the workplace is essential for managers and co-workers.

The highly valued addict

The important thing for employers to realise is that addictions can be managed, and valuable employees can be restored to their full health and potential. It is the employer’s responsibility to put in place measures that will most benefit the organisation. Many employees are still high-functioning and valuable contributors to their organisation and more and more companies are realising this and find it more cost effective to rehabilitate than to dismiss and hire a replacement.

Signs and symptoms that may indicate possible substance abuse in the workplace include:

  • Changes in work attendance or performance
  • Alteration of personal appearance
  • Mood swings or attitude changes
  • Withdrawal from responsibility and social events
  • Attitude of blame towards colleagues or other individuals in their life
  • Lack of responsibility

“These signs can usually be picked up by other colleagues and can be an indication that something is occurring. It is very important to have an open channel around transparency and support within the team and this can make a difference between heading off a crisis at the pass” says Glyn Smithson who is UK Clinical Partnership Manager for The Cabin a residential rehab facility in Thailand. 11% of their clients come from the UK – most of whom are high functioning addicts with co-occurring mental wellness issues such as anxiety and depression exacerbated by their high-stress jobs.

Workplace strategies

Ensure that you are clear about the support the individual can expect from the organisation should they make a disclosure. Also, be clear about workplace consequences should they not seek support, such as the health and safety risk to themselves and others, and the organisation’s legal perspective on such matters. It is important to have a robust policy in place with a step by step procedure to follow, this framework will allow the business to support the individual and the manager who needs to make the decisions that are required throughout this process.

The importance of resources

Having a list of resources available both inside and outside of your organisation can help employees make any decisions about where to seek assistance. Where possible build connections with appropriate support services that are not linked to the workplace, e.g. AA and external treatment providers.

Employees often don’t want to use resources that are provided in-house as they think it will get fed back to their organisation. It is therefore important that the HR department select external support services that offer client anonymity and privacy which one needs to heal from an addiction. Ideally look for a treatment provider that offers ongoing support and aftercare for when the employee returns to work.

Treatment is the solution

Successfully tackling alcohol/drug misuse can benefit both your business and your employees; treatment is a better solution than new recruitment.

More on staff mental health and wellbeing and staff management.

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