New Year, New Ways to Support Your Employees

For Employers
Published
Jan 26, 2022
new year and habits

With the new year comes the chance for a new chapter.  Many people consider January 1st to be a blank slate, a fresh opportunity to establish their goals - often with the common theme of self-improvement.  Despite the challenges of the lingering pandemic, 62% of Americans are setting their intentions on better health for 2022; in addition to improved diet and consistent exercise, common resolutions include reducing or abstaining from substances.  Unfortunately, there has been a significant surge in reports of anxiety and depression, and, consequently, a rise in substance misuse / addiction among adults.

Of course, setting a goal is one thing – reaching it, and sustaining a new behavior is another.  When it comes to our health, we know alcohol and tobacco are substantial factors in preventable deaths; however, abstaining from drinking and smoking are reported as two of the most difficult goals to accomplish.  As an employer, you have the opportunity to step up and play a crucial role in your employee’s success, and their improved quality of life.

Benefits of Healthy Employees

Successful managers are carefully balancing the needs of their employees with those of the company; when it comes to supporting your employee’s well-being, however, the CDC has a clear message: everyone wins if everyone fosters a healthy work environment.  A struggling employee may find their job performance, communication with coworkers, and overall engagement impacted by their stressors; creating an environment for your employee’s well-being to flourish will have positive implications on their overall health, as well as the fiscal strength of the company.  For example, healthier employees in the workplace will result in cost savings through: 

  • Increased worker productivity
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Reduced insurance premiums

In addition to monetary gains, supporting the health of staff members may promote the development of a cohesive work environment.  When employees have access to resources that enhance their well-being, there are fewer incidences of burnout (a gradual, chronic build-up of stress due to work), as employees feel valued and supported.  With healthier employees comes an increase in team engagement (more effective communication, excitement about projects), and increased productivity (employees take fewer sick days).  In a time where employees are regaining control of their professional opportunities and are selective with the positions they accept, this type of a health-conscious environment may both attract desired candidates, and increase retention rates with already employed staff.

What Steps Can You Take?

As more employers take notice of their role concerning an employee’s well-being in light of a pandemic-centered world, it is important to draw attention to the issue of substance abuse and addiction.  An indicator of health often clouded in stigma and denial, substance use disorders (SUDs) have been historically overlooked in the workplace; however, as the National Safety Council notes, SUDs have a direct impact on absenteeism, job turnover, re-training, and cost of healthcare, demonstrating their impact on the employee and employer alike.  To emphasize the commonality of this issue, consider that nine percent of the working population meet criteria for a substance use disorder, 70% of all adults with SUDs are employed, and although some spaces are more at risk than others, individuals with SUDs can be found in every industry.

Employees benefit most from a comprehensive, multifaceted approach – including support from their team at work.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take to foster a setting that will support your employees wherever they are in their need for care:

  • Educate supervisors and management on the signs of addiction: SUDs are not a moral failing on the part of any individual; however, there are people who hold this severe misconception.  By providing management education on the roots, signs, and symptoms of SUDs, they may be less inclined to interact with the concerned employee negatively, and more likely to recognize their need for help.  It is not the role of the supervisor to diagnose, but rather to keep employees safe and help them feel supported.  The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has outlined a comprehensive list of potential signs an employee may be struggling with a substance issue.
  • Establish policies that allow flexibility for appointments: A primary barrier to treatment can be an employee’s perceived inability to leave work for therapy or medical appointments; implement policies that will encourage employees to take the time they need, and eliminate concern for negative repercussions.  Present these policies to your employees, and confirm they are aware of their options.
  • Consider your existing culture: Building on efforts to negate stigma, cultivate a working environment that reduces exposure to factors that may increase a person’s risk of abusing substances (unrealistic expectations, limited time off, risk of injury, alcohol use at work events), and lower barriers to ongoing care.  Promote a medical viewpoint of addiction, and encourage overall healthy lifestyles.
  • Set an example: Taking vacation days, utilizing support as needed, and setting boundaries at work positively impact mental well-being; when employees observe their supervisor taking these steps, they may be more inclined to follow suit.  Self-care and stress management at work supports mental health, and may minimize risk of an employee abusing substances to cope.
  • Advertise services available: Widely discuss the services offered by the company, promote them in commonly used areas, and strongly advocate for their use.  Even if an employee isn’t ready to seek help, knowing there are resources available (and encouraged) may shift their readiness to change, and challenge any belief they will experience negative consequences by accessing treatment for their SUD.  Throughout this promotion, clearly address the confidentiality and privacy concerns employees may have in pursuing those services.

Employees dedicate a significant amount of their time to their work.  Providing an opportunity to enhance the health of a company through the health of the people who support the company’s mission, is certainly an admirable goal for the new year. 

Learn how to best support your employees struggling with substance use disorder, contact Quit Genius today


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