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Alcohol and drug addiction treatment - How responsible employers tackle workplace drinking

Published 02/02/2009


It's no secret that drinking plays a big part in workplace life, both as a perceived antidote to stress and a way to socialise with clients and colleagues.

But the knock-on effects of all that lunchtime and after-hours boozing can be considerable. In a December 2007 survey conducted by Norwich Union Healthcare, one in three employees admitted they have been to work with a hangover and more than one in ten has been drunk at their desk.

Of those who had had a hangover or been drunk at work, 85% confirmed it affected their performance or mood. More than a third (36%) found it hard to concentrate, 35% were less productive, 42% felt tired to the point of being sleepy and 25% did the minimum amount of work and went home as soon as possible.

But it's not just the short-term effects of workplace drinking that concerns bosses. In the survey, four out of five employers rated alcohol as the number one threat to the well-being of their staff. In some cases, it may even lead them to require alcohol detox addiction treatment.

"Employers are right to worry, because for many of their employees, a perceived acceptance of work-related drinking can encourage them to slip into habits that can quickly develop into full-blown alcohol dependence," says Sue Allchurch, research director at Linwood Group.

First, she says, employers need to have in place robust alcohol policies and monitor employees for signs of developing problems. "Problem drinkers can often be identified in the workplace by poor performance, high sickness absence and disciplinary problems. Because people spend a lot of time at work, their co-workers and supervisors may be best-placed to catch problems early on." Linwood Manor Group, she adds, has worked with a variety of organisations nationwide to develop drug and alcohol policies.

Second, employers must do more to actively assist employees who feel they may have an alcohol problem to seek help voluntarily at an early stage. "It's vital that they have information to hand about sources of help and support and, where necessary, alcohol recovery centres," says Allchurch.

The message to bosses is clear: Alerting employees to concerns over their drinking and offering them to find an appropriate addiction treatment programme isn't just a way to avoid the short-term productivity impacts caused by workplace drinking. It's also a way of showing that an organisation values the health and well-being of the people who work for it.

 Contact Linwood Group for confidential advice and treatment if you are concerned that you or anyone close to you has a drinking problem.

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