Last updated: February 24, 2020
Substance abuse in the workplace happens much more frequently than you might expect. Consider these disturbing statistics from the Department of Labor:
- More than 70 percent of adult drug users are employed, the vast majority of them full-time.
- More than 14 percent of American employees admit to being heavy drinkers.
- More than 60 percent of people surveyed by the Hazelden Foundation said they knew someone who’d gone to work under the influence.
Since substance abusers are on the job–and cost American business billions of dollars per year–maintaining a drug-free workplace is critical. Fortunately, keeping your workplace drug free doesn’t have to be complicated. The simplest steps are often the most effective.
Platforms like Facebook can yield a wealth of information. Recent surveys show the number of companies mining social media for data on job applicants is rapidly increasing. A series of profile photos showing an applicant drinking alcohol or looking stoned should raise red flags about what kind of employee that individual will be, as well as questions about his or her possible substance abuse.
Get to know your employees on a personal level. This is not to say you have to be joined at every hip, but dropping by their desks to show interest in their families, hobbies, and personal/professional goals will create bonds of trust and improve communications all around. An employee who feels connected to and appreciated by the higher-ups is more likely to approach them if substance abuse becomes a concern.
Workplaces where employees feel engaged, valued, and appreciated will deal with less on-the-job substance abuse. Reward employees for a good job—mentioning their names at a staff meeting, writing a letter of commendation, or awarding extra days off are all excellent methods you can use to show appreciation. Encourage creativity and initiative by asking for opinions and check regularly to make sure each employee has everything—training, equipment, and support—he or she needs to do the job.
Know the signs that may indicate a substance abuse problem and keep your eyes open for them. Some of the most noticeable signs include:
- personality changes—irritability, lethargy, inability to concentrate
- increased absenteeism
- decreased productivity
- missed deadlines
- carelessness about details
- poor personal hygiene
Employee education is key to preserving a drug-free workplace. Each person who works for you should understand company policy, as well as the consequences of on-the-job substance abuse. One of the best ways to make sure everyone does understand is to have each worker sign an agreement stating they have read, understood, and intend to abide by the company drug protocol. Remind your employees that maintaining a drug-free workplace is in everyone’s best interests and offer periodic training to reinforce that fact.
Random drug testing not only serves as a deterrent to substance abuse—everybody knows they’ll be tested, but they never know when—it also sends a powerful message about your level of commitment to keeping the workplace drug free. A fair, impartial testing program makes it clear: The drug-free policy applies to managers and supervisors, as well as the clerk at the desk or the technician on the floor.