Last Updated on June 21, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck
While it’s not often discussed, substance abuse in the workplace is a serious problem that affects many businesses. According to the United States Justice Department, in addition to potentially being a safety issue, “absenteeism, lost productivity, and increased use of medical and insurance benefits by employees who abuse drugs affect a business financially.”
Employees don’t have to be under the influence in the workplace for their substance abuse to become an issue for your business.
Here are 3 essential tactics for detecting and dealing with substance abuse in the workplace.
Know the Signs
While substance abuse in the workplace can sometimes be tough to spot, a few signs might indicate a problem. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence state that changes in attendance, such as tardiness, taking long lunches, or missing work altogether, are significant signs that something might be wrong in an employee’s personal life.
Other signs an employee might have a substance abuse problem include paranoia, exhaustion, decreased productivity, and low quality of work. You and your employees must know to keep an eye out for these signs so that a potential problem can be spotted before it becomes a severe issue.
Symptoms such as slurred speech, glassy eyes, erratic behavior, or sluggishness indicate that an employee might be under the influence in the workplace. Make sure all employees know what to watch out for so they can report this behavior immediately, as an intoxicated worker is a safety concern.
Have an Open-Door Policy
Employees should feel comfortable coming to you or another supervisor if they suspect a coworker is abusing substances. Likewise, the offending employee should feel comfortable reaching out for help if they need it. Make it known that although substance abuse in the workplace is not tolerated, you’re willing to work with a troubled employees to get them the help they need if they ask for it.
Stress the importance of reporting erratic or unusual behavior in your workplace. Many employees might shy away from talking to you about their suspicions for fear of jeopardizing a coworker’s job. However, an employee with a substance abuse problem is an accident waiting to happen, whether on the job or off. It’s in everyone’s best interest that the issue is solved.
Create a Preventative Culture
One of the best ways to ensure that substance abuse in the workplace can be detected and handled correctly is by carefully curating your office culture. I’ve written about how to structure your company culture to prevent embezzlement, and the tactics are similar for preventing and detecting substance abuse.
Suppose your office culture values communication between employees and supervisors, clearly defining employee responsibilities and office policies, and getting to know your team members personally. In that case, it will be easier to spot when there’s a behavior change. Moreover, it will create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their problems.
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