Employers all around the country have struggled to cope with the spike in cases of substance use disorder (SUD) and co-occurring conditions due to COVID-19. Suddenly, workers who are regularly on time focused and happy seem out of sorts behaviorally and experience anxiety and depression. COVID-19 created not only a viral pandemic but also a serious rise in cases of overdose, anxiety, depression, and trauma.
The world changed in 2019. The pandemic severely impacted everyone’s lives, and many people turned to substances to cope with this public health crisis since their coping skills were limited. Overdose deaths increased dramatically during this time. Not only was the world facing COVID-19, but the mental health crisis worsened. What can employers and others in the workforce do to help in this crisis? Find a way to identify and help those who are struggling. Identifying problems and solutions is the beginning of helping your workforce. Begin by identifying substance misuse in your workplace.
Someone Introduced Substance Misuse to the Workplace
Prescriptions for pain medication and anxiolytics are on the rise, as is an increase in amphetamine prescriptions. Sharing prescriptions can be the beginning of dangerous workplace practices by many employees trying to cope with the increased demands of life and work during this pandemic and times of relative safety. People often self-medicate through offerings from co-workers who may be initially just trying to help. However, after some time, the “help” can turn deadly as those who never intended to struggle with substance use now find themselves addicted and unable to cope without some form of self-medication.
In these situations, you will find increased drug test failures and reduced productivity in your entire workforce. One individual who struggles with misuse of substances or with a SUD diagnosis can impact so many other workers. While you may believe remote work environments can help eliminate the distribution of substances, there are other dangers relative to working from home. No matter where your workers are, they are at risk of struggling with substance use issues if proper policies and support are not provided.
The Inherent Dangers of Remote Work
So often, during the Covid-19 pandemic, policymakers explained that being home was in the public’s best interest. However, one must ask if it is truly “safer at home.” There are serious mental health consequences to working from home. While we may be safer from viruses and physical illness, mental health and substance abuse issues are running rampant among those with limited coping skills when working independently. According to the National Safety Council, studies estimate that over 40% of workers had increased mental health issues and substance abuse rates while working from home during COVID-19.
Humans are social creatures that rely on others for support. When working on a worksite, people receive more emotional and social support. They see people every day and have solid work relationships. Unfortunately, unless people are skilled at communicating and have little anxiety about sharing via online forums, the risk of isolation is increased. This creates more depression and anxiety as workers struggle to process current events and work experiences. This might lead many to ponder self-medicating, which can lead to addiction and other serious mental health conditions, safety issues, and possible overdose.
Has Substance Misuse Become Rampant in the Workplace?
How can you know if you have a problem with substance misuse in your company? There are several signs and symptoms of substance misuse, many of which can be identified through careful observation of your workforce and how your employees are coping with various deadlines, safety protocols, and personal stressors.
Being observant is the first step to identifying and plugging addiction-related leaks in the workplace. Before addressing the issue, employers need to know what is happening in their workplace and who is involved. Begin by observing the problems in your workplace and the behaviors of all involved. The first sign of substance use may be altered behaviors or moods. You may also look for physiological markers of substance use or withdrawal as some workers may be actively trying to not use in the workplace but struggling. Offer solutions, not judgment. You cannot expect your workforce to be willing to open up and be ready to address the problem if you are being judgmental.
Below are three signs your employee may be struggling with a substance abuse issue. Keep in mind that these indicators do not necessarily mean that SUD is present but can indicate another problem that might be important to address as a way of helping the individual and your entire workforce.
#1. Mood Changes
Your employee may struggle to get along with fellow workers. They may believe they are doing the right thing, have more confidence than usual, or might be less motivated than normal. Your worker may seem happier or more angry than usual. Interpersonal relationships in the workplace may seem strained due to substance misuse and the changing moods of employees who have SUD.
Your employee may react with intensified verbal responses or become more isolated and less willing to engage with co-workers. There may be memory difficulties or lack of concentration and confusion. These are a few mood-related indicators that something is wrong with your employee but may not necessarily mean that substance misuse is present. Be proactive about solving the problem instead of reacting with judgment.
Absenteeism is one of the most notable and financially draining effects of substance abuse in the workforce. Persons with SUD miss work many times the rate of most other individuals in the workforce. When combined with other co-occurring disorders, absences may be even greater. There may also be other behavioral indicators relative to job performance, such as extended breaks and lowered quality of their work.
#3. Physical Changes
Employees struggling with mental health or substance use issues will have changes in their appearance. Persons who once took good care of themselves may suddenly not care about their looks, and they may stop wearing clean clothes or stop showering or grooming altogether. However, another critical component relative to physical changes can be weight and energy.
Persons struggling with SUD may suddenly lose a great deal of weight or gain weight, depending upon the substance. Jumping to conclusions is not ideal and may alienate the workers, making them less likely to discuss their struggles. Being sensitive to SUD and the changes it can create physically can help you better assist employees.
Other physical changes may include alcohol on the breath and frequent use of gum, breath spray, or mouthwash. They may also have dilated pupils and sensitivity to sounds and lights.
Being aware of warning signs of a SUD can save lives, not only of the individual struggling, but the lives of other workers as workplace accidents increase with the misuse of substances.
Making Policies That Heal Instead of Punish
Having policies that encourage growth and adherence will help your workplace. Having a written policy on drug use in the workplace is going to promote compliance and a willingness for employees to ask for help. Provide resources and opportunities for growth and abstinence. Do not offer judgment or penalize those asking for help; instead, offer hope and support. One key thing to offer is an employee assistance program (EAP). Providing confidentiality and opportunities for treatment will help your workforce overcome mental health conditions, self-medicating, and the development of SUD.
Addressing the Issue: Do Not Humiliate the Employee
The employee you have identified as potentially having a SUD does not need humiliation or judgment. Instead, offer support and understanding. There are probably several underlying root issues to your employee’s misuse of substances. This person may self-medicate other issues and has limited outlets to relieve symptoms. Partnering with an EAP and preferred recovery centers can help you develop a method for identifying and intervening with employees who have a potential SUD.
Accountability for your worker is necessary, but humiliation and blame do not help facilitate a situation involving SUD. Offer a solution and support while still requesting a change. Your workforce deserves safety and accountability from all employees, not just those willing to maintain safety and sobriety.
How to Identify and Remove Problem Employees
There may come a time when you have to remove an employee that creates increased risk for the safety and cost-effectiveness of the company. These employees have often been offered assistance and a generous opportunity to overcome their SUD and develop strategies to comply with company regulations.
Requiring accountability is not against the law. The safety of your workforce comes first, and if you have an employee that consistently violates policies, terminating their employment may be your only option. This action should only be completed after several attempts to help the employee develop and maintain their recovery.
Policies That Work Every Time
There are many options for policies, but one critical component of a policy includes the support and training of supervisory staff. Your supervisors are your first line of defense against harmful events within your company, and management is the first to notice changes in employees and impairment. So, training these individuals is critical to improving workplace safety.
Another critical component to ensuring safety and compliance with policies in the workplace is pre-employment drug and alcohol screening and random testing. Focusing on prevention and encouraging sobriety can save your workforce and your company.
Implementing New Drug Guidelines
When implementing a new policy, having it in written format and requiring signatures upon reading and newly mandated training will help ensure everyone understands the new policy. Increased awareness of the new policy will enhance employee adherence and eliminate any legal ramifications by eliminating problem employees who continue to break policy and try to blame the company.
Partnering With a Treatment Center Saves You Money
A critical component of a new policy is offering support to those struggling to follow the new rules. One way to offer support is by partnering with a treatment center. Why partner with a treatment center? Partnering with a treatment center not only saves the lives of your workers but also saves you money.
When you offer treatment to your employees, you offer your entire workforce increased productivity, improved morale, and enhanced wellness. At White House Recovery and Detox, we know the importance of having a safe workplace for all employees. We are a treatment center staffed by people who intimately know addiction and want to see improvement in each individual who walks through our doors.
Your willingness to partner with us shows you care about your employees and want to see them succeed. Not only will treatment at White House Recovery and Detox help them overcome SUD, but it will help them develop accountability and willingness to approach life with renewed health. We treat the root issues. We don’t just address addiction; we treat the whole person because we know every client has the potential to succeed if they are willing, and we expect willingness.
Your Employees Deserve a Second Chance
When you partner with an EAP and a treatment center, you give valuable employees a second chance, which many need and deserve. Many persons who struggle with SUD are willing to get help because they recognize their life is out of control. Unfortunately, many people with SUD feel inadequate and unable to help themselves. They may desperately want help but don’t know if getting help through work is possible.
Reviewing your insurance options for treatment and ensuring that treatment is possible for your employees is the first step to helping your employees obtain the help they need. Review the insurance guidelines at White House Recovery and Detox and learn what resources you need to provide to ensure your employees get the help they need.
You Cannot Force Someone to Get Help
No one in the workplace can be forced into treatment, and they always have the option of quitting their job if they feel there is not enough understanding or support from the management team. Providing support and promoting health will help your employee recognize that you care and improve their willingness to get help. Offer a solution that will help, not hinder. Suggest treatment that will enhance their life. You and your employee want full healing, not just detox. Offer the solutions found at White House Recovery and Detox, where we offer a program focused on treating the whole person and truly understanding what recovery means.
Avoid Taking Your Feelings Out on Them
Show support to the person who is bravely facing their fears, the real pain of withdrawal, and a long future of recovery. You may not agree with the choices they have made in their lives, but by choosing to get the help they need to heal, your employees have taken a brave stand against the cycle of addiction. Avoid taking your feelings out on them. No matter how their substance misuse has affected you, their co-workers, or the clients, you should treat them like people first. We all make mistakes, and everyone has to learn and go through the pain and frustrations of self-growth.
While accountability is essential, recognize there are deeper issues at work, and they are doing the best they can. Offer a solution, not judgment. White House Recovery and Detox might be a good solution for your problem since we teach life skills and accountability as our clients pursue recovery. We don’t just treat substance abuse; we treat the whole person and help them find a way to reach their full potential. Look to us when you find yourself facing substance misuse issues in your workplace.
Having employees who regularly use substances to cope with stress or other co-occurring disorders can be a drain on the limited resources of any business. Partnering with treatment options and offering hope and healing to your workers might save not only the lives of your employees but also your company. At White House Recovery and Detox, we offer life-altering solutions. We treat the whole person and get to the root of the issues, and offer life skills and job training relative to the entertainment industry. We not only offer treatment, but we also offer life change. When you partner with us, you are ensuring the safety and well-being of your employees. Contact White House Recovery and Detox at (800) 510-5393 to learn how we can help you and your employees thrive in life without substances. You and your workforce deserve your best life now.