How to Help an Employee Suffering From Addiction

Each year, millions of Americans battle a substance abuse disorder, costing society more than $740 billion in lost workplace productivity, health care expenses and other related expenses. Hiring and retaining employees that battle addiction can be extremely costly to your business. 

When they call off or neglect their responsibilities, their co-workers have to pick up the slack. This can cause companies to lose time, money and all-star employees who leave due to burnout. 

Therefore, it’s important to address addiction in the workplace and nip substance abuse in the bud. Here are a few ways you can identify and help those suffering from addiction so everyone can enjoy a healthy, happy workplace environment. 

1. Recognize the Warning Signs 

Because of the negative stigma surrounding addiction, many employees will try to hide their struggles from co-workers and bosses. However, if you learn to recognize the warning signs, identifying addiction in the workplace is relatively easy. 

One telltale sign is tardiness and frequent absences. Employees with substance abuse miss an average of 34% more workdays than others, so if one of your team members has been sick more than usual, they may be struggling to control a substance problem. You might also notice dips in productivity, a lingering smell of smoke or alcohol, and lapses in personal hygiene, all of which point to potential addiction. 

2. Review Available Resources 

If you notice the above warning signs and suspect an employee is struggling with an addiction, research available resources before confronting them. This way, you can offer solutions instead of simply pointing a finger at them. 

Review the company health plan to see if it offers coverage for addiction recovery. Many insurance programs provide something, especially for outpatient services. Look into your company’s Employee Assistance Program, too, as it will often address mental health issues, including substance abuse. If your company doesn’t offer any help, consider revising your benefits package to include mental health support. 

3. Investigate Local Support Groups

Sometimes, revising company benefits isn’t an option, and you’ll have to look elsewhere for support. In this case, your first move should be to investigate local support groups

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have chapters in most cities. Plus, many churches and community centers offer support groups and counseling to those who can’t afford to seek professional medical help. Identify one or two nearby groups that hold meetings outside of work hours so you can recommend them when you meet with your employee. 

4. Review Company Policies

There is no requirement for most private employers to have a drug-free workplace. However, the Department of Labor recommends that businesses adopt a substance abuse policy and outline expectations regarding alcohol and drug use. If you haven’t addressed this topic in your workplace, it might be time to review company policy and make some revisions. 

Publish a statement to notify employees that it’s unlawful to use or distribute substances on company property. Include the consequences of violating these stipulations to create a more compliant workplace and discourage people from using controlled substances in the first place. Random drug tests and background checks might motivate addicts to get help, too.

5. Talk to Your Employee

One of the top weaknesses of managers is their inability to have difficult performance conversations with their employees. However, if you never address the problem, it will likely only grow worse. Then, you’ll have no choice but to meet for the most challenging conversation of all — termination. 

Therefore, it’s best to confront your employee as soon as possible and help them beat their addiction. Find a time to talk with them privately and speak from a place of concern. Offer solutions and support groups. Then, whether they admit to a substance abuse disorder or not, be sure to voice your expectations going forward. Note the potential consequences if their work continues to suffer as well. 

Creating a Healthy Workplace Environment

Helping an employee suffering from addiction can seem daunting and, in some cases, impossible. However, offering support and encouragement is all part of investing in your team. The more often you can provide help, the healthier your workplace environment will be.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Tags: addiction, mental health


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  • I think that the best decision is to go to specialized organizations, as they know what to do in such situations. It's important to choose the right words to talk about this.

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