The occasional Happy Hour with coworkers or celebratory refreshment at a company event are more often than not an acceptable part of workplace culture. However, alcohol abuse among employees, and even their family member, can be a detriment to health and workplace productivity.
Issues that can arise from alcohol abuse include:
- Loss of productivity
- Higher turnover rates
- Injuries and fatal accidents
- And, unfortunately, more!
Research has found that1:
- Workers with alcohol problems were almost 3 times more likely than workers without drinking problems to have injury-related absences.
- A hospital emergency department study showed that over 1/3 of patients with an occupational injury were at-risk drinkers.
- 1/5 of workers and managers report that a coworker’s alcohol consumption jeopardized productivity and safety.
How do you know when an employee has an alcohol or drug problem? This question is not always so easy to answer.
Some signs that may point to a problem with alcohol include2:
- The smell of alcohol, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes
- Unexplained absences from work, frequent tardiness, excessive use of sick leave
- Missed deadlines
- Becoming a “loner”
- Mood and behavior changes
- Avoidance of supervisory contact, especially after lunch or breaks
Note: These are potential signs. An individual with a problem with alcohol can exhibit a few signs, or none at all. Avoid diagnosing an employee. Instead, use these signs as examples when speaking to an employee about their performance and offering a referral to a program to help.
What can employers do to address alcohol and the workplace?
- Implement written policies to prevent substance use, such as alcohol-free workplace functions and/or written substance abuse workplace policy.
- Establish an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to provide confidential counseling and other services to support employee emotional and mental wellbeing3
- Educate employees about the hazards associated with alcohol abuse through workplace wellness presentations and work/life programs.
- Promote resources to address substance abuse issues, such as the MA Substance Abuse Helpline and the SAMHSA National Helpline
- Offfer benefits that provide comprehensive coverage for alcohol disorders including aftercare and counseling
- Incorporate information about the risks of alcohol use in workplace wellness strategies to promote good nutrition, exercise, seat belt use, tobacco cessation etc.
Alcohol can have serious ramifications on individual health and the overall workplace. By becoming aware of the signs of alcohol problems in the workplace and ways to address them, you can help support a healthy workforce today!
 National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. https://ncadd.org/about-addiction/addiction-update/drugs-and-alcohol-in-the-workplace
 United States Office of Personnel Management https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/worklife/reference-materials/alcoholism-in-the-workplace-a-handbook-for-supervisors/#Signs
 EAP Employee Assistance Program http://www.theeap.com/faqs/