The issue of alcohol misuse at work has always existed, adversely effecting employees’ health, work performance, conduct, and safety. Organisations should most definitely treat this as a well being rather than a disciplinary issue. Whatever your personal views are, it’s important to handle such cases professionally and with integrity, supporting wherever you can and using external expertise and advice.
Christine Wright from Habit Breaker, a former functioning alcoholic who paves the way forward in coaching entrepreneurs and managers in gaining a healthier relationship with alcohol. Here are 5 top tips in gaining a healthier relationship with alcohol which could be implemented allowing you to support your employees through their recovery.
Have and know your policy
Ensure that you have a clear policy in place, that sets expectations about behaviour and prioritise general support for well-being, where you can create a safe environment where people feel able to ask for support. This could encourage people to seek help before a concern becomes a real issue.
The policy should also be in alignment with the organisational culture you have created.
Things such as
- Entertaining clients – Does your organisation use corporate entertaining or socialising as part of doing business?
Is there an expectation or has it become the ‘norm’ that alcohol will be involved?
- Working hours – Is there an expectation that staff will work prolonged and extended hours for periods in order to fulfil organisational objectives?
- Socials – Are work events inclusive of employees from different national, religious or ethnic groups who may have different attitudes to alcohol? Are there alcohol-free options for employees who may have a substance abuse problem, those who are driving or for those who simply choose not to drink?
There is nothing worse than promising the earth and then not be able to deliver, so be realistic about the support you can offer and look to balance the individual’s needs with the impact their issue is having on the organisation and its operations or services.
Larger organisations may already have occupational health, employee assistance programmes, health insurance or benefit plans, or access to specialist counselling or support services. In this situation, you need to look at what you can provide and how much specialist support may be required. Smaller organisations should also consider other forms of support that are not expensive and are relatively easy to implement, such as allowing flexible working to attend appointments.
Provide flexible work options
Successful recovery from alcohol requires maintaining a healthy work-life balance and time set aside each week for self-care. A daily exercise routine, regular participation in 12-step and/or other recovery meetings, and free time for fun recreational activities and meaningful relationships are just some examples of self-care measures that further recovery from alcohol—but these all require time and, in many cases, the flexibility of time.
Greater time and work-life flexibility reportedly also boost employee morale and productivity, both of which are linked to better mental health, and better mental health aligns with lower risks of relapse.
Thankfully, flexible work options are also one of the best ways to attract and retain talented employees.
Put a no overtime ban in place
Discourage employees from working overtime and encourage them to take regular breaks and allotted holiday time. People who work more than 50+ hours each week are reportedly three times as likely to have a chronic alcohol abuse problem than those who do not. They also are more susceptible to stress, and stress, in general, is a big risk factor for addiction relapse.
Host an Employee Assistance Program
As a confidential service to employees, EAPs are usually staffed by professional counsellors and provide confidential short-term counselling, assessment, and referral of employees with alcohol abuse problems (among other issues). Because relapse can be common in recovery, especially during the first year following treatment, having an EAP in place ensures that employees who are either in danger of relapsing or have relapsed can access treatment more quickly. As a treatment referral resource, EAPs also provide much-needed support and peace of mind to employers, for whom troubleshooting substance abuse problems in the workplace can be a real source of stress.