How to make workplace interventions work

Considering that about 70% of North Americans currently using illegal drugs are still actively employed, and that substance abuse makes us three times more likely to have a dangerous accident on the job, workplace intervention help for families is a pressing safety matter. It is also important to note that employee substance abuse costs companies a substantial amount of money due to decreased productivity, higher rates of accidents and related medical costs, as well as potential legal fees.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, providing employee intervention help for families is not only the right thing to do, it also makes sense with the company’s bottom line. Providing assistance for addiction treatment pays for itself in the long run by reducing employee turnover and long-term healthcare costs, and increasing efficiency, worker morale, and attendance.

We should take some time to learn more about how to identify substance abuse on the job, and ways for employers to hold constructive, rather than destructive, workplace interventions.

Constructive Interventions

The people in charge of overseeing the workplace, including managers, supervisors, and business owners have two critical responsibilities that are relevant to this topic.

1) They have to make sure that employees are doing what they are supposed to, for the sake of the business.

2) They have to make sure the workplace is a safe and healthy environment for everyone, including that employee, clients, and other workers.

A constructive intervention is one that is motivated by these two goals in mind whereas unfair, Destructive Interventions are those motivated by other factors like:

Personal differences

If a supervisor reprimands an employee because they disapprove of their drug or alcohol use during their free time, even though it has no effect on the quality of their job, this may be an inappropriate workplace intervention depending on the company’s pre-existing official drug policy.

An arbitrary desire to fire somebody

Most people will drink or use drugs throughout the year, so an unscrupulous employer who wants to fire somebody, but lacks a legitimate reason to do so, may stage a substance abuse “intervention” to justify their decision.

When is the Right Time Employers Step in?

Employers should step in when they start to see start to see signs that substance abuse is affecting the employee’s ability to perform their job, and work safely and cooperatively with others.

These are the red flags employers should watch out for:

Absenteeism – A once diligent worker starts to show up late, frequently call in sick, or completely miss their shifts without even giving notice.

Poor Hygiene – Their appearance may change, and they may not look as professional as they once did. If your workplace requires a uniform, they may not be keeping their work clothes clean and presentable anymore.

Changes in Mood – Someone who was once level-headed and responsible, may now seem rather erratic and unreliable. This happens because most drug problems result in a decreased ability to control our emotions resulting in conflict, decreased workplace morale, and lower efficiency.

Disappearing without Explanation – They may be sneaking off to drink or use drugs during their shift when they think no one will notice. When you ask them about it, they may have a weak or suspicious explanation for why they left.

Decreased Productivity – If a worker, who consistently got their assignments done on time in the past, is now always missing deadlines, it may have to do with a substance abuse problem.

Increase in Accidents – Whether they are coming to work impaired, or just distracted because they would rather be using, addicted employees tend to have accidents and injuries more often. In fact, employees with an alcohol abuse problem are nearly 3 times more likely to have an accident at work.

The Right way for Employers to Intervene

Workplace interventions should be helpful, supportive, and carried out with everyone’s best interests in mind. There should be no verbal attacks or insults, and the intervention shouldn’t take place at a time when tensions are already high. Since the employer-employee relationship is a professional one, the conversation should focus mainly on facts about the employee’s performance and the steps both parties can take to fix the problem, rather than emotional or personal factors.

The employer should thoughtfully plan the meeting ahead of time, and if they believe the situation will turn hostile, they should consult a professional interventionist. This type of professional will consult with you to make sure that the intervention is appropriate, and they can be present to help mediate the conversation so everyone gets a fair chance to speak.

As an employer, you should offer intervention help for families in the form of financial support for treatment, and provide referrals for counseling, detox facilities, rehabilitation programs, or support group meetings.  If your company doesn’t already have a protocol in place for helping employees recover from substance abuse, it is in your best interests to set one up as soon as possible.

Olivia Emmausa