A 2017 study demonstrated that 12.7% of the U.S. population now meets diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder. That’s one in eight American adults. Statistically speaking, you likely have one or more employees struggling with alcoholism. For the health and well-being of your staff and your company, it’s important to take this information into account. In this article, American Addiction Centers provides tips for addressing alcohol addiction within your organization.
Prioritizing the health of your employees is essential for the success of your business. Healthy, happy employees mean lower turnover and absenteeism, increased productivity, and a more positive company culture. By focusing on well-being, you’ll see improvement in both recruitment and retention. And offering a workplace in which all your employees can thrive means acknowledging addiction and alcoholism.
Of course, that isn’t always easy. In many companies, accomplishments are often celebrated over drinks. Coworkers bond during after-work happy hour, and holiday parties often mean excessive cocktail consumption.
If you want to be a supportive leader who remains sensitive to the difficulties of your team, here are some helpful guidelines to follow.
Educate Your Leadership Team on the Signs of Addiction
When it comes to addressing addiction, it’s important to be proactive. Teach everyone on your leadership team to recognize the signs of addiction, allowing you to identify employees who may need your help and support.
These signs include:
- Frequent unexplained tardiness/absences
- Inconsistent performance
- Sluggishness, particularly in the morning
- Appearing overly tired
- Defensiveness to criticism or suggestions, seeming paranoid or suspicious
- Mood swings and irritability
- Secretive behaviors such as stealing from work, taking especially lengthy bathroom breaks, spending time in the car during breaks
- Unusual behavior including slurring words, walking unsteadily, appearing hyperactive or confused
- Sudden lack of concern in hygiene or personal appearance
- Physical symptoms such as bloodshot eyes, a flushed appearance, or the smell of alcohol
Furthermore, inform your leadership team that addiction can happen to anyone. This is true regardless of family life, career success, socioeconomic status, etc. Never assume that someone in your office couldn’t possibly struggle with addiction.
When discussing addiction with your team, work to dismantle the stigma that often surrounds it. Make it clear that addiction is a disease. Just as you wouldn’t discriminate against an employee needing medical treatment and recovery time, you shouldn’t discriminate against someone fighting addiction.
Consider an Employee Assistance Program
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are the most commonly used workplace intervention to address alcohol addiction. They aim to help employees resolve personal problems that may adversely affect their performance at work. The goal is to prevent loss of employment.
If an employee decides to use your company’s EAP, a coordinator arranges for an assessment or diagnosis. The coordinator or a diagnostic agent then suggests counseling or treatment, usually at a community agency. The employee likely will be financially responsible for services that your company doesn’t cover, so it must be the employee’s decision. You can’t mandate the use of an EAP.
Many EAPs include follow-up and relapse prevention, which is an important aspect of recovery from addiction. Be sure to stay in close communication with any employees who receive treatment, making it clear that you’re available for ongoing support.
Research suggests that workplace alcohol education and health promotion programs are valuable complements to EAPs. Supervisory training on the importance of these programs and how they work increases positive attitudes toward EAPs and increases the likelihood that employees will use the service.
Encourage Open Communication
People struggling with substance abuse often hide their addiction because they fear the judgement of others. In the workplace, this is especially true. Your employees may worry that if they open up about their addiction, they’ll be terminated.
Be sure that your employees know they can ask you for help and receive confidential support. Tell your team (and show them through your actions) that their health and well-being are a top priority.
Offer Alcohol-Free Events
Another idea is to rethink how your company incorporates alcohol into celebrations and events. Company gatherings don’t have to center around beer, wine, or cocktails. You can also take your team out for coffee, host themed potlucks, or take on fun team-building activities, like an escape room.
If alcohol will still be part of your company culture, try to plan at least an equal amount of alcohol-free events. And be sure that all employees have an easy way to opt out of events where alcohol will be served. For instance, don’t pair happy hours with mandatory company announcements or events.
Be Aware of Risk Factors in the Workplace
Several work-related factors may contribute to alcohol abuse and similar problems among employees. One prevention strategy is to reduce these risk factors as much as possible within your company.
For example, research has found correlations between high stress, low job satisfaction, and elevated levels of alcohol consumption. Research also shows that employees who work excessively long hours are more likely to overindulge in alcohol. To address this, foster a supportive, collaborative, and positive work environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up when they feel overwhelmed.
Another risk factor identified by research is workplace alienation. Feeling alienated at work may negatively affect an individual’s sense of identity and control, potentially impacting overall mental well-being.
Enhancing employee involvement and interest by including them in planning, decision-making, and problem-solving is one way to address alienation. Open communication, inclusion, and genuinely caring about your employees will also help.
Most of these risk factors can be addressed by creating a positive company culture. Give employees a voice, make work meaningful, and recognize effort and contributions. Encourage positivity by smiling, expressing gratitude, and staying cool under pressure. Listen to employees’ questions and concerns, and ask for feedback.
Of course, these efforts can’t eradicate addiction entirely. But you will create a positive workplace where your employees feel supported. Not only will this benefit your employees’ mental health, but it’ll also ensure that they feel comfortable asking you for help.
Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders
For employees with alcohol use disorder, there are several treatment options available. Most successful treatment programs will incorporate the following:
- Supervision from a professional to help the individual through withdrawal symptoms and address medical or pre-existing psychological conditions
- Therapy/counseling, which will assist the individual in developing coping strategies, recognizing triggers, and addressing underlying issues that may have influenced the alcohol abuse
- A plan for long term aftercare, which may include 12-step meetings or other support groups
Successful, long-term recovery also requires support from family and friends. Many individuals in recovery must make new friends, since their old friends may still engage in substance abuse and can trigger a relapse. A healthy lifestyle, positive hobbies, and self-care are vital as well.
American Addiction Centers recognizes these components of successful treatment. That’s why we take a big picture approach to treating addiction. It’s also why our success rate is double the national average. We consider factors such as health, lifestyle, co-occurring mental disorders, and environment to create individualized treatment plans that address the whole person.
If you, an employee, or a loved one is ready to get help, call (888) 971-5873 today. You can also find helpful resources and information about alcohol addiction at Alcohol.org.
Alcohol addiction is real, prevalent, and likely present at your workplace. Don’t ignore it. Get informed, and be proactive and supportive. As a result, you’ll have healthy, productive employees, a positive company culture, and a thriving business.
Read more about American Addiction Centers: https://premiergazette.com/2019/07/american-addiction-centers-helping-people-stay-sober-independence-day/