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EMPLOYEE DRUG ABUSE: TRUTH, IMPACT, AND RESPONSE AT THE WORKPLACE

May 3rd, 2016

workplace drug abuse office

Drug abuse has become a rampant problem in society. In the workplace, it can become an even bigger problem as it can have a huge impact on any business. In this article, we will look at the prevalence and effect of drug abuse in the workplace.

FACTS ABOUT DRUGS IN THE WORKPLACE

Drug abuse in the workplace can be an expensive problem for businesses and industries. It carries with it a wide range of issues such as lost productivity, absenteeism, injuries, low employee morale, and others.

Figures from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) revealed that drug abuse in the workplace has cost employees approximately $81 billion a year. Likewise, 7 out of 10 of the 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed, as reported in EHS Today. In addition, employees who have three or more jobs are two times as likely to be current or previous illegal drugs users who have had less than two jobs.

IMPACT OF DRUG ABUSE IN THE WORKPLACE

Now more than ever, there is a need for employers to consider substance issues among their employees. In today’s workplace, employees need to be alert, accurate, and should have quick reflexes. Absence of these qualities can have serious impact on the accuracy and efficiency of work.

Some of the effects that drug abuse can have on employees include:

  • Tardiness or sleeping on the job
  • Poor job performance and productivity
  • Poor decision making
  • Tendency to commit theft
  • Loss or reduction of morale
  • Loss of attention and concentration
  • Illegal activities at work
  • Increased incidence of disciplinary action
  • Health-related issues

office drug abuse

THE ROLE OF THE WORKPLACE IN DRUG ABUSE

Employers can play a huge role in putting an end to drug abuse in the workplace. Most employees have a problem addressing alcoholism and drug abuse issues and this can have an effect on their job performance. By establishing employee assistance programs (EAPs), employers can improve productivity and efficiency of their employees. From short-term counseling of employees with alcohol and drug abuse problems to intervention in personal problems, employers can look forward to reducing drug abuse prevalence in their workplace, and in the process lowering their expenses.

Another way that employers can lower drug abuse among their employees is to implement a drug-free workplace, as well as offer health benefits that include coverage for substance use disorders, including after care and counseling.

Implementing an employee assistance program can have long term effects on the workplace. Treating alcohol and drug abuse among employees can result to reduced healthcare costs. A successful employee assistance program also contributes to increasing morale and productivity while reducing absenteeism, accidents, downtime, turnover, and theft.

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

As an employer, you would always strive to make your employees happy and satisfied with their jobs. Like members of the family, you need to care for their health and well-being. Any sign of addiction among your employees can have a devastating impact on your company. It translates to increased healthcare costs, loss in productivity, reduced employee morale, and even fatalities.

This is where having an employee assistance program can come in. The aim of EAP is to help employees maintain a healthy work and life balance. The program is generally offered to the employees for free. It is paid for by an employer through a health insurance provider or through another third party administrator.

Most workers deal with various issues such as personal problems, mental and emotional health, and general well-being. Some issues that these programs focus on include:

  • Financial problems
  • Legal issues
  • Family problems
  • Major life-changing events
  • Relationship issues
  • Drug and alcohol abuse and dependence
  • Work-related issues
  • Psychological disorders

However, you should bear in mind that an EAP does not necessarily solve these issues. For instance, it is not designed to get an employee out of a financial problem. Instead, the program aims to assist employees in finding a way to cope with these issues in a healthy and productive manner.

EAPs are offered to workers in a variety of ways. It is dependent upon how a particular program is administered. The usual manner is that the employee can avail of assistance by getting in touch with a counselor over the phone or through a face-to-face encounter. There are no restrictions on the number of phone calls that an employee can make.

However, in the case of face-to-face meetings, there are limits to the number of sessions for every employee. The good news is that they can access a variety of online resources that help them learn more about their problems and how to cope with their difficulties.

One important aspect of an EAP that every employee should bear in mind is that all information is confidential. Even if the employee pays for the program, the information is held in extreme confidentiality. Employees may avail of the service without their employers knowing about it or having any knowledge about the issues. Employers can refer any of their employees to the program as long as they feel that their workers need assistance and will benefit greatly from the program.

BENEFITS OF EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS

Studies have shown that an employee assistance program offers a wide range of benefits to the workplace. These programs can help reduce the costs of medical care by addressing mental and substance abuse issues. Aside from that, EAPs can also reduce employee turnover.

In addition, EAPs help lower absenteeism among employees. With reduced absenteeism comes an increase in productivity. This is because the employees are happier, healthier, and more balanced.

While there are criticisms about these programs, the negative comments about them can be prevented by letting an outside party manage the program. When the company itself is running the program, there could be issues like bullying or targeting employees that can arise.

While employee assistance programs focus on a wide range of issues, it can be especially helpful when addiction is a problem in more than one employee. Substance abuse in the workplace can be a huge issue because addicted workers have the tendency to lose focus, have little care about the quality of their work, and will most likely miss time on the job.

Another advantage of employee assistance program is that it can extend to the family members of employees. If workers have family members who are suffering from drug or alcohol dependence, this may affect their performance at work. The said family member can enjoy the EAP benefits.

construction workers drug abuse

CHOOSING THE RIGHT EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

The characteristics and provisions of EAPs may vary considerably, and so employers must carefully study each program before deciding. Here are some factors to consider when comparing programs:

  1. Are the staff who will run the program qualified?

Make sure that the people who will run the program are professionally qualified and licensed. They should have established connections with local health groups and national self-help agencies.  Likewise, they should be taking a continuous education program. You can always check their affiliations and experience in running EAPs.

  1. Are their fees affordable?

The cost of EAPs may be different from one program to another depending on the structure of operation, type and extent of services provided, and method of computing charges. Experts recommend that the base fee should include the materials and administration costs that will be incurred by the providers. National services tend to provide more affordable programs than local companies but this is not the case all the time.

  1. What is included in their services?

Employee assistance programs offer a variety of scope and subject matter. Comprehensive programs will usually provide managers with help in dealing with troubled employees, developing wellness policies, and setting up seminars on health issues.

  1. Is the facility accessible? Can they be easily reached?

One important aspect of choosing an employee assistance program is the accessibility of the facility. The training facility should be conveniently reached by employees who may want to visit before, during, or after work.

Likewise, the company should have a toll-free line that should be reachable round the clock in case the employee encounters difficulties while working. Response time is an important consideration when choosing a company to handle your EAP.

  1. Do they constantly communicate with members?

When choosing a company who will handle your employee assistance program, you should choose one that constantly communicates with you and other members. They should also have a record of their effectiveness in helping customers reach their productivity goals or implement safety programs.

SIGNS OF A DEFECTIVE EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

Employee assistance programs have often been recognized for the roles they play in cost management. However, if the implementation or design is defective, then the expected cost savings goal of the program will not be achieved.

Employers should consider the following signs that the program may need some polishing:

  • Employees were generally dissatisfied with the program
  • Only a small percentage (i.e. less than 5 percent) of qualified employees use the program
  • Issues raised were not addressed within a reasonable amount of time
  • The program reflected an unwarranted bias towards a particular method of treatment
  • Employees indicated distrust to the program viewing it as a potential management tool for getting rid of punishment or justifying termination
  • There is conflict of interest on the part of the personnel running the program. For example, they have financial ties with a provider where they are referring employees.

While these warning signs can be easily addressed, it is important for employers to first have sufficient research regarding the needs and desires of their employees before trying to change the program. In similar fashion, when the company decides to revise their employee assistance program, they need to take all the necessary precautions to make sure that the employees who benefitted from the previous program will not be left behind.

Employers play an important role in getting rid of drug abuse in the workplace. While it may only be true to a handful of employees, sooner or later it can have a snowball effect on other employees as they may tend to decrease their morale and confidence in the company.

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