Over the past few years there’s been a real increase in alcohol and drug addiction across the world. In the USA, there’s a real battle on the government’s hands with opioid addiction, while in the UK and indeed the rest of the world more and more people have been using alcohol to cope with the likes of the pandemic.
Which is, of course, having a knock on effect in the workplace. Drugs and alcohol have long been in the workplace, especially in particular industries such as high-intensity white collar jobs in the city. London was once named the world’s cocaine capital due to such misuse.
But whether it be cocaine abuse, cannabis usage or keeping a bottle of whisky in a desk draw, alcohol and drugs in the workplace is a real problem, and if you’re a business owner, office manager or in charge of a team, then you’re going to want to kick it out.
That isn’t easy, and you need to treat those who are perhaps involved with such behaviour carefully. After all, it could be the stress of the job in hand that has led to this.
First things first, you need to identify whether it is a problem…
There are some tell-tale signs that alcohol and drugs in the workplace are an issue, and that’ll largely come from performance. If there are dips in productivity, accidents or performance and conduct issues, then it may raise a bit of a red flag, while changes in people’s behaviour (after all the side effects of drugs and alcohol are clear to see) and unexplained absences is perhaps the point where you start to think about tackling the situation.
Health and safety is a big part of that. If you’re not the employer, then contacting them firstly is important, as is understanding the company’s policy on drugs and alcohol in the workplace, especially in workplaces that use heavy machinery, involve driving, or electrical equipment as this can really have catastrophic effects
If there is no policy in place, and you’d be potentially in charge of creating one, then doing so should be a priority. You need to think carefully about this. Addiction is a cruel beast and rather than instant dismissal, you need to consider how to support an employee or colleague, aiding them in the help they need.
Of course, there are many incidents where disciplinary action will also be required, such as if you found someone in possession of drugs in the workplace, or worse still dealing – that’s a police matter.
There are more extreme practices you can set up such as screenings if you think it’s a growing problem that is having major impacts on your business, which can help prevent usage and people turning up to work under the influence, but employees must consent to this for legal reasons.
The main thing that needs to be considered is offering the support needed for anyone suffering from addiction or abusing drugs to get the help they need. There’s a duty of care in the workplace and a moral obligation to look after your staff, particularly when they need that most.