Addiction in the workplace, regardless of the size of the workforce, has a profound effect on the bottom line. Countless hours are lost engaging in or recovering from the addictive behavior. The economic cost of addiction is astounding. Consider the following:
- Compared to non-addicted employees, the utilization of health benefits for addicted employees is 300 percent higher. (Houston Business Journal, “Drug Use and Abuse Remain Serious Workplace Problem.”)
- Disciplinary actions for addicted employees are 90 percent higher. (Houston Business Journal, “Drug Use and Abuse Remain Serious Workplace Problem.”)
- Alcohol and drug abuse alone cost the economy $276 billion in 2001. (“Substance Abuse: The Nation’s Number One Health Problem,” Institute for Health Policy, Brandeis University.)
- 21 percent of workers have been injured or put in danger due to a co-worker’s drinking. (United States Department of Labor.)
- Statistically speaking, by the time an employee begins having problems at work, s/he has been abusing alcohol or other drugs for an average of 12 years. (“Important Truths About Interventions,” Olalla Recovery Centers.)
In terms of human costs, how does one put a value on self-worth or the loss of respect from co-workers and supervisors? How are the decline in morale and decrease in function of the workplace as a whole quantified?
If an employee is struggling with an addiction, there are often multiple or significant changes in attendance, productivity and/or interpersonal interactions. These changes are often present whether the addiction is to alcohol or other drugs, food, gambling, the Internet, sex or shopping/spending. An employer could expect to see a decline in the quality or timeliness of the employee’s work, neglect of personal appearance, rapid or extreme mood fluctuations, an increase in the number of sick days or time-off requests, evading or avoiding responsibilities, or defensiveness. It is important to note that issues other than addiction may be responsible for these behaviors. The imperative action for the employer is to intervene as early as possible in this process, before human and economic costs rise further.
Two systemic problems influenced by addiction in the workplace are increasing workloads for co-workers and a decrease in employee morale. Co-workers begin to resent having to work harder to make up for the decreased productivity of another. Other co-workers refuse to work with someone who has put him/her in danger. The income generated by a person via his/her job is the one area most closely guarded by the addict. The employee will resort to utilizing almost any tactic to avoid having his/her supervisor find out about the addiction. For this reason, once problems do begin to appear on the job, intervention is critical. Many employers, fearful of doing the wrong thing, hesitate to do anything and unwittingly allow a situation to worsen. Some employers conduct business with the belief that “what my employees do with their time away from work is none of my business.”
Successful business leaders recognize that their employees are their most valuable assets. Wise business leaders, before making decisions that will affect their business and/or its employees, consult and gather information from experts and evaluate that information. The process for intervening in the course of an addiction is no different. The costs to an employer to ignore a potential addiction problem increase each day an intervention is delayed. Knowing how and when to intervene, as well as who to turn to for consultation and professional assistance can dramatically reduce both the human and economic expense.
If an employer recognizes a pattern of behavior that causes concern, the professional staff at the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery are ready to answer questions and help facilitate the process of change. For more information or a free, confidential consultation, call 1-800-522-3784. iBi