Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace

Every day Americans work through the stress of their job, along with possibly supporting a family and many other responsibilities. This sometimes leads to workers turning to alcohol as a means to release stress after a long day of work. Unfortunately, this habit can turn into a long-term problem that only gets worse over time, as a matter of fact 8.8 percent of employed Americans reporting heavy drinking. Today, alcohol abuse at work is not only hurting the health of employees, but employers are losing billions of dollars across the nation for a wide variety of reasons. For that reason, it is more important than ever to focus on ending alcohol abuse at work.


Impact of Alcohol Abuse at Work

The consequences of alcoholism in the workplace can take a major toll on businesses, as substance abuse costs the United States $276 billion dollars annually. There are several factors that directly and indirectly play into play into this staggering figure:

  • Employees who are hungover or drunk at work can make the office a more dangerous place. This is especially true for businesses where employees operate heavy machinery or do physical labor. 40 percent of all industrial fatalities are linked to alcohol.
  • Alcoholism abuse at work can make employees more aggressive and irritable, creating a higher risk for social issues from employee-to-employee and employee-to-customer.
  • Alcohol abuse will have a long-term effect on the employees themselves, as drinking may damage their overall health outlook and lower their ability to perform certain tasks.
  • Alcohol abuse costs employers in health care costs, as substance abusers are three times more likely to use medical benefits.


How to Identity Alcohol Abuse at Work

If an employee decides to be drunk at work, the chances are that they are en expert at hiding their alcohol abuse issues. Although you would think the signs of drinking would be easy to pick up on, there could be other reasons for behavioral changes. There are a few warning signs that most drinkers in the office will tend to show:

  • Physical Appearance: There are many signs that can observed physically, as many of the signs of alcohol abuse are on the surface. These signs include bloodshot eyes, the smell of alcohol, the use of mints or sprays to cover up the smell of alcohol, shaking or even sleeping on the job in some cases.
  • Mood Changes: Alcohol abuse at work could lead to more aggressive and irritable workers when they are under the influence of alcohol. While depression may be harder to identify from afar, that may play a role as well.
  • Constant Bathroom Use: There are plenty of reasons why drinkers find themselves in the restroom more that coworkers. One reason is that they may need a discrete place to get drunk at work during the job. Another, is that vomiting and nausea are major side effects for problem drinkers.
  • Increased Absences: Absenteeism is 4 to 8 times more likely for alcoholics. Not only are they more likely to call in to work sick and show up to the job late as well, but they also tend to change jobs more frequently. This is due to the fact that alcohol abusers have a hard time fulfilling responsibilities.

Why is There Alcohol Abuse at Work

While it is inexcusable for an employee to be drunk at work, there are still several factors that could possibly contribute to office drinking issues. Here are some reasons that may play into employees drinking on the job:

  • Workers may view drinking as a way to cope with high-stress situations at work.
  • Loose supervision and more access to alcohol make alcohol abuse at work easier for employees.
  • Repetitive activities and lack of activity lead to boring situation, where workers will be more likely to drink.
  • Low job satisfaction and lack of interest may create an environment employees don’t care if they are drunk in the workplace.

Confronting a Drunk Employee

If you suspect that you have an employee drunk at work, it would help to prepared entering your confrontation. It helps to create a list of resources that you could use to take care of the drinking issues he or she may be going through. It may also help to look into resources that will assist you in addressing alcohol abuse at work.

If you have employer-provided health insurance you may be able to send your employee to rehab for little to no cost at all. It would be wise to contact lawyers to see if their potential termination complies with the state law, federal law and specific rules your company has in place. You can also use your lawyer to make sure that your company will not be liable for damages caused by alcoholism in the workplace.

It is important to confront the employee in question in a somewhat timely manner. Using all of the information you have gathered, attempt to have a productive conversation. Be sure to voice your own concerns and provide the different treatment methods you have came across. Let the employee know that you care about the employee's well-being and they will not be terminated by admitting to have a drinking problem. 

What You Can Do About Alcohol Abuse at Work

Every employer in the United States should have a drug and alcohol abuse policy in place. This will let employees know why the policy is in place, what is expected of employees and what the violations of the policy. Laying the groundwork for how alcoholism in the workplace will be handled will not only prevent issues from happening in the first place by setting a standard, but it will help you take care of the actual substance abuse issues as they arise.

There is also training that can help human resource managers identify alcohol abuse at work before it becomes too dangerous. There are plenty of videos, written guides and even conferences focused on assisting workers that need help addressing alcoholism in the workplace. Learning how to detect, prevent and resolve these issues is vital to the success of your company and your employees.