Local charity Aquarius’ workplace service Aquarius Life has been working across the county supporting employees that have issues with alcohol, drugs and gambling. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted how people cope with everyday life and now, more than ever, it is important that employers safeguard the wellbeing of their people.
Figures suggest that:
1 in 3 people are addicted to something.
It is thought that 1.5 million people in the UK are addicted to prescription drugs.
70% of people that misuse substances are in employment.
Aquarius is well placed to support workplaces across the county, with over 40 years’ experience providing evidence-based, high-quality services to help change behaviour and change lives.
Aquarius’ work is based on the idea that drinking, drug use or gambling are acts that someone might do to gain, avoid or escape certain things. Behaviour is learned and maintained in the context of each person’s whole life – this means their family, employment, housing, biology, cultural background and other personal and social challenges.
The Aquarius Life workplace service outlines some ways that employers can practically support people. For instance:
Ensure you have an alcohol, drugs and gambling policy in place that is well understood by the workforce. The policy should include clear guidance and be unambiguous. For example, it should include clear guidance on drug testing procedures.
Ensure that management and support roles like Human Resource and Occupational Health lead by example with their communication and that they encourage people to be non-judgemental. It is crucial that everyone understands that we are all at risk of these issues. Rather than judging the behaviours someone displays, it is worth exploring why they might be behaving in a particular way.
Whilst it is important that people take responsibility for their behaviours, it is important that employers do not take an excessively punitive approach to dealing with issues related to alcohol, drugs and gambling. You can be supportive by knowing what support options are available for people – that might be through an Employee Assistance Programme or through specialist support services like Aquarius Life.
Recognise that periods of workplace stress can trigger issues for people. Look for changes in patterns of behaviour. For example;
Has someone started to turn off their camera on online meetings when normally it would be on?
Have absences become more common for certain individuals than they would normally be?
Has someone’s physical appearance changed, or has how they communicate become different e.g. they have become excessively chatty or they are slurring their speech?
Where someone has an issue already, it is important to recognise that the stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may create a risk of somebody lapsing in their recovery. Take time to check in on someone you know has an issue and offer them this three-step self-management tool in the event that they lapse;
Expect to feel bad – you probably think you have let yourself and others down. Recognise the thought and the feelings associated with it, know it will go away in time – and do not use it as an excuse to make the lapse even bigger.
Line up a friend you can talk to – someone who will not criticise and will just listen to you. Because talking it through helps you make sense of what happened and puts your thoughts in order.
Be honest with yourself – work out what went wrong and how you will deal with it next time.
To achieve a well-rounded approach to supporting people with alcohol, drug and gambling issues, it is advised that employers take proactive steps to ensure that issues are addressed before they become a problem in work. To this end, Aquarius provides:
Consultancy: writing, reviewing, and implementing alcohol and drug policies.
Training: educating people about alcohol, drugs and gambling issues.
Support: Providing one-to-one support programmes for people with issues to help them to recover and lead fulfilling lives.