People often think that people with substance abuse or addiction issues are outliers, people who live in squalor and who cannot keep a steady job. But the reality is that the majority of people struggling with addictions hold down full time jobs, just like you and me.
We tend to think that identifying people with drug or alcohol problems is easy, but many successfully hide their afflictions from family members and employers. However, if you suspect that one of your employees may have an issue, there are some things you can look for.
How to Identify an at Risk Employee
Keep in mind that addiction is a condition that requires treatment, and we should be mindful of how we approach an employee we think is dealing with a substance abuse problem. You want to do all you can to confirm your suspicions and be aware of the following warning signs.
- Has the quality of the employees work diminished, are they late in completing assignments, or do they appear distant or withdrawn
- Do they seem anxious, and do they struggle with concentrating on their work
- Are they gone for long periods of time, or do they take long lunches or break
- Does the employee react harshly or with aggression when given feedback
- Is there a noticeable change in their appearance or hygiene
Potential Impact of an Impaired Employee
An employee that is dealing with a substance abuse issue can have an impact on the quality of work, and even on other employees. This can present both a financial and human resources situation that may have a significant impact on your employees. Impaired employees are at a higher risk for both workplace accidents and violence. Employees that come into workplace high, or drunk, can make your other employees uncomfortable or even fearful of the person depending on the level of inebriation. Left unmanaged these employees can damage your reputation and even result in unwanted legal consequences.
Overall Cost of Addiction or Substance Abuse in the Workplace
According to the NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) 70% percent of the estimate 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed, additionally the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) estimates that $120 billion dollars is lost to productivity, and an addition $11 billion is spent on healthcare costs. Dealing with employees who are dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction present risk in a variety of areas, but the financial impact of lost productivity and higher absenteeism can have place a significant burden on your company and cause stress for not only you, but also for your employees.
What can you do?
If you do not have a current substance abuse management or prevention policy in place, that would be the first place that you should start. It is important that you have a clear policy that outlines the consequences for substance abuse in the workplace. You will also want to incorporate a drug testing option in your policy. Whether you want to take the employee to a lab, or collect a sample in house, you want to make clear that you do not, and will not tolerate substance abuse. A strong policy will make it clear to your employees that you take their safety and security seriously, it will also ensure that should you encounter an employee under the influence you have a rock solid plan for how to deal with. Regardless of the size of your organization, a comprehensive policy will save you money and time.
One other thing that you can do to support your employees is to add an addiction treatment option to your benefits package. Many people dealing with an addiction are great people who have just found themselves in a bad place due events in their lives that they aren’t able to handle. It is important to show people who are struggling a path to recovery. Many people who go through a recovery program can return to their workplaces as hard working dedicated employees who are grateful for the help they were given. By adding a recovery option you may not only save a valuable employee, you may also save a life.