Addiction’s Effect on Productivity in the Workplace

team working in an office

Addiction’s Effect on Productivity in the Workplace

Australian workplace productivity losses associated with drug and alcohol abuse sit at $6 million dollars per year, including 2.5 million days lost due to drinking and drug use [Alcohol and Drug foundation, 2017].

These staggering numbers aren’t inclusive of the financial and labour-based cost of diverting and creating resources to address these problems and fill the gaps caused, nor the immeasurable suffering caused.

The old adage of ‘work hard, play hard’ has been used for decades to justify toxic cultural trends around substance addiction and abuse in workplaces, with higher prevalence in “high pressure” industries.  

In addition to absenteeism, loss of production, deaths and accidents, other problems include:

  • Poor decision making
  • Loss of efficiency and shortened attention span
  • Higher likelihood of Illegal activities including theft
  • Higher staff turnover
  • Lower morale
  • Poor interpersonal relationships
  • Hangover or withdrawal affecting job performance

Research from the National Alcohol and Drug Knowledge base (NADK) has shown that multiple factors are likely to contribute to drinking and drug use in workplaces, including:

  • Workplace culture and acceptance of drinking/drug use
  • Alienation or isolation
  • Availability of or proximity to alcohol and drugs

Who is most at risk?

No profession, industry, or workplace is free of the risk of addiction, but statistics identify high-risk groups

Australian male workers employed in blue-collar jobs (utilities, construction, and mining, etc) are more likely to regularly consume alcohol at dangerous levels. This is particularly worrying because accidents in blue-collar jobs endanger more lives than white-collar occupations that are restricted to the office.

There are costs associated with injuries and accidents in workplaces, such as Workers’ Compensation, and in severe cases, expensive lawsuits.

Other workplace factors

The Australian Bureau of Statistics cites CEO’s and General Managers as the roles with the highest rates of alcohol consumption (2018). This increased consumption may be related to stress and higher-risk lifestyle choices.

Statistics show that “the most affluent areas in our cities also tend to have the highest concentrations of cocaine use”, with 

Employees aged 25-29 years and 40-59 are more likely to increase their long-term risk of alcohol-related disease or injury, with male workers more likely to drink at dangerous levels.

The solution

Creating a workplace culture that encourages people to prioritise mental and physical wellbeing over drinking and recreational drug use needs to become the modern standard for contemporary leadership.

To build a positive culture and navigate existing issues, it’s essential to undertake conversations with empathy, offering support and education while developing modern and inclusive policies line with current legislation are all positive steps to increasing integrity,  building trust and decreasing the stigma around addiction.

With lived experience of the effects of drug addiction in the workplace, the team at ACAU can help you to:

  • Navigate interventions and conversations around substance abuse in the workplace
  • Offer support through our EAP service
  • Coach high-risk team members
  • Train management in awareness and education 
  • Plan for individual return-to-work scenarios

Your team is your biggest investment – ACAU can assist you with advice, programs, skills, and policy development to help you to create an environment where they feel safe, supported, and free to operate in a way that supports their mental and physical health.