You obviously don’t want your employees consuming alcohol or using mind-altering substances while they’re on the clock. However, have you ever considered what after hours binge drinking, alcoholism or abuse of prescription drugs might be doing to your company’s bottom line? The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates the total costs of drug abuse and addiction are $524 billion a year. Illegal drug use alone accounts for $181 billion in healthcare, productivity loss, crime, incarceration and drug enforcement.
My Employees Would Never Use Drugs!
If you don’t think any of your employees are drug misusers or abusers, you could be wrong. According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, 8.5 percent of Americans have alcohol-use disorders. Millions more abuse illegal or prescription drugs. They may work within any type of business and within any industry. They may hold positions at any level within an organization—from entry level to c-suite executives. And because of the side effects of substance abuse—from reduced coordination and slow reflexes to overconfidence and reckless behavior—they are more likely to make devastating mistakes or cause accidents in the workplace.
Yikes! What Are the Warning Signs?
Employees who abuse or misuse alcohol and other drugs often exhibit performance or behavioral problems. While the presence of one or more of these issues does not necessarily mean a particular worker is an abuser, they may warrant closer observation. Extreme stress due to life events such as divorce, death or health problems may also cause these symptoms.
- Inconsistent quality of work
- An increase in mistakes
- Inability to concentrate
- Faltering productivity
- Chronic absenteeism or tardiness
- Extended lunch hours
- Early departures
- Unexplained disappearances
- Errors in judgment
- Risk-taking behaviors
- Avoidance of colleagues
- Blame throwing
- Frequent complaints
- Lack of personal hygiene or deterioration in appearance
All of these issues may cause your business to lose money through the deterioration of workplace morale (which can increase turnover), reduction in employee productivity, and increase in accident risks. When workplace injuries increase, workers compensation insurance rates follow.
So What Can I Do?
It’s essential that you create a company substance abuse policy, document it in writing, and communicate it to your employees. The best policies clearly define what constitutes substance abuse and misuse in your workplace, outline the disciplinary actions that you will take if an issue is identified, and tie into your organization’s drug and alcohol testing program.
Additionally, you should train managers and supervisors to recognize the symptoms of possible drug and alcohol abuse and misuse and communicate with the employees in question in a caring, confidential and effective fashion. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that includes education on substance abuse and misuse as well as short-term counseling for employees with personal problems that are impacting their work performance can also be a valuable investment.
If you’re concerned about substance abuse and misuse within your workplace, contact your insurance professional for assistance and insight into appropriate policies, protective and preventative measures.